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Trump White House Committee Wants Dirt on Legalization

The forces of US cannabis prohibition aren’t going gently into that good night.

Turns out, they’re trying to amass a collection of cherry-picked data and scare stories that will reverse surging voter support for ending the federal war on marijuana, which has failed after more than 80 years and tens of millions of arrests.

Today, BuzzFeed news reported the existence of an anti-marijuana committee in the Trump White House soliciting 15 federal agencies for data on the negative effects of cannabis law reforms, including legalization.

A White House anti-marijuana committee has been asked to collect negative data for a slam book against legalization.

The group specifically asked for scare stories or pictures to illustrate legalization critics’ concerns — typically drugged driving, teenage marijuana use, and trumped up mental health claims.

According to BuzzFeed, a “Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee” told the agencies via email in August to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and the “threats” it poses to the country.

BufzzFeed reporter Dominic Holden writes: “the committee’s records show it is asking officials only to portray marijuana in a negative light, regardless of what the data show. … None of the documents indicate that officials are seeking data that show marijuana consumption or legalization laws, which have been approved in eight states, serve any public benefit or do a better job of reducing drug abuse.”

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Wrong Side of History

According to Committee emails, it believes “The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate.” The goal is to brief President Trump on “marijuana threats”.

President Trump has backed efforts to allow states to set their own cannabis policy, most notably through Colorado Sen. Corey Gardner’s bill to exempt legalization states from federal marijuana laws. On the campaign trail he said cannabis should be a state’s rights issue, though he said it came with negative effects. In the past Trump has stated the US should legalize all drugs.

A record high 63 percent of US voters support legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and over. More than 80 percent of Americans support medical cannabis legalization. Nine states and Washington DC have legalized cannabis, and more than 30 have some medical marijuana law on the books.

The White House might be trying to put together a slam book on marijuana — but there’s never been more evidence of legalization’s benefits. Washington, Colorado, and Oregon officials have hailed reforms, which have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue while actually reducing teen use. Longtime legalization opponent and Calif. Sen. Diane Feinstein now supports states rights to cannabis policy. There’s also been no conclusive evidence legalization has led to an uptick in drugged driving, rather Colorado has seen decreases of it. Police also were not effectively tracking the issue before legalization generated tax dollars to do so.

Paul Armentano, deputy director for national legalization group NORML said the Committee will fail amid real-world voter experience with legalization.

“It is not a surprise that those wedded to the policy of cannabis criminalization and willing to take any means necessary to try and reverse the course of public opinion,” he told Leafly Wednesday. “Fortunately, propaganda and fear-mongering will not change the reality enjoyed by those millions of Americans who now live in jurisdictions where marijuana is legally regulated. Their real-world, day-to-day experience reveals that state and local governments can regulate cannabis in a manner that keeps it out of the hands of children while simultaneously satisfying the seller, the consumer and the taxman — and the sky won’t fall. Though some in the administration may wish for a return to the ‘Just Say no’ era, Americans today know better and no amount of reefer madness is likely to change their perspective.”

Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, added a note of caution. “It is still unclear whether agencies have actually catered to the request for one-sided information,” he said, “but we hope they will fulfill their obligation to stick to the facts about marijuana and provide an accurate analysis of how state marijuana laws are working.”

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David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He's written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including 'Marijuana Harvest' by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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