Why Does Trump Want Cannabis Data from Massachusetts?

By Kyle Swartz

August 28, 2017

Should you trust President Trump’s intentions for cannabis?

Regulators in Massachusetts now find themselves facing this question. Last week the National Marijuana Initiative (NMI), an anti-drug task forced based out of the White House, requested that the state hand over data on its medical cannabis users.

According to a report by the Boston Globe, the task force asked for the info as part of a wider effort by the government to collect data on medicinal cannabis. In Mass alone there are about 40,000 patients registered to receive such products, though the NMI has promised that the data they want is anonymous.

Deciphering Trump’s thoughts are never easy. So it is with cannabis. During his successful campaign for president Trump publicly stated that supported medicinal cannabis and leaving it up to the states. He’s done little since then to suggest his opinion has changed.

And it makes sense for the federal government to collect data on medicinal cannabis. It’s a still-young market that first came into existence in California in 1996, before blossoming in the past 20 years as the legal-pot movement grew across America. Why wouldn’t the White House want to study this expanding market and culture?

But there are ominous signs, too. Despite its innocuous-sounding name, the National Marijuana Initiative is not necessarily friendly towards the drug. Requests for data sent to Mass and (reportedly) other states were sent by the task force’s deputy coordinator, Dan Quigley. Quigley is a former Colorado police officer who told the Globe, “I’ve not seen much good come out of legalization . . . When you make something that has no sense of risk or harm attached to it widely available, use rates are going to go up.”

Dig not too deep in the National Marijuana Initiative’s website and you unearth eye-opening statements like the following.

Under “Mission,” the site declares that “The National Marijuana (NMI) Initiative improves the capabilities of the 28 High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas nationwide in carrying out the National Drug Control Strategy objectives of disrupting domestic trafficking and production of, and reducing demand for, marijuana and derivative products . . .”

Under the subsection “Vision,” the website opens with, “Every citizen deserves the truth about the health risks, public safety implications, and environmental impacts of marijuana cultivation and usage.”

In the section entitled “Public Health and Safety,” the site includes blog posts with headlines including “Increasing numbers of children admitted to hospitals with marijuana exposure,” “Potential for Addiction,” “Hash Oil Explosions” and “Increasing DUIs.” Headlines under the section “Medical” are similarly themed: “Heavy Marijuana Use Reduces Bone Density, Increases Risk of Fractures,” “Article Update Revises Previous Findings: Marijuana Not Harmless” and “Changes in the Brain and Decreases in IQ.”

The rest of the website contains reports and posts that argue a similar point. While there is plenty of verbiage on the site that promises a fair, impartial presentation of research about cannabis, there is startlingly little to back up this claim. Rather, the NMI website appears to be set up for people seeking proof that legal cannabis is dangerous for all manners of public health.

Would the website change its tune if medicinal data from Mass and other states pointed out the healing properties of cannabis? It’s questionable. After all, the U.S. attorney general remains Jeff Sessions, the famously outspoken pot opponent. And Sessions may be searching for data that supports his anti-cannabis views after his infamous drug Task Force reportedly failed to provide him with new policy suggestions to crack down on cannabis.

But in the end, it all comes back to Trump. The president who pockets a planned speech to go off-the-cuff one night before sticking to script the next, changing his tune from day to day. Would he back a cannabis crackdown? Considering the socioeconomic standing of many of his supporters, a class that likely supports cannabis, it’s difficult to see Trump doing something that might upset his base.

Put it all together and it’s an uncertain, precarious situation. The states asked for data by NMI will assuredly comply with the federal request. Regulators across the nation would be wise to watch just what happens with that information.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Cannabis Regulator. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com. Read his recent piece: The Future of Cannabis Parties.

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