Is President Trump coming for your weed?
By Angela Bacca—Let it be said that no U.S. president since prohibition began has been a friend to the legalization movement. All advances made have been made by the people who pushed for it, fought for it and did time for it. Yet, a president’s general leanings towards the issue are the difference between a police state and one where the citizens have freedom over their own bodies and agriculture.
Under former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, a handful of liberal-leaning states voted in favor of medical cannabis, but federal enforcement always loomed overhead. Despite federal classifications, public opinion and availability continued to increase year over year through W’s second term.
While Obama sailed to office with the support of the cannabis industry, who saw in him a potential ally, unfortunately he never pushed the policy to match with his rhetoric about letting the science dictate the policy. What he did do, was drop two large bread crumbs in the industry’s lap via his attorney general, Eric Holder. In 2009, Holder released the Ogden Memo, which stated the new administration’s policy to look the other way in states that had chosen to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. In 2013, he released the Cole Memo, meaning the administration would not enforce federal law in states that had voted to legalize recreational use, as long as they stayed within the fed’s guidelines.
From 2009-2016, seven states and Washington D.C. have voted to legalize adult use marijuana and over 30 states permit some form of medical use of marijuana– but all that is about to change, again.
Cannabis legalization is one of the only truly bipartisan issues left in a highly-polarized America. Many of President Trump’s supporters are pro-cannabis legalization, and the administration knows this, which is why Trump’s enforcement of marijuana law is going to be clouded with Trump-style newspeak.
Police State or Pot States
Newspeak is the language used by the ruling class in George Orwell’s 1984 and refers to the deliberate manipulation of language to alter the perception of reality through over simplistic and contradictory language (“fake news!”). The purpose of newspeak is propaganda and control, the power to make you believe that, now, two plus two actually equals five. There were really a million and a half people at Trump’s inauguration. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
Last week, when questioned about how the Trump administration would respond to legalized marijuana, White House press secretary Sean Spicer reiterated the administration’s support for medical cannabis while suggesting federal law would be enforced in states that had voted for recreational legalization.
No one can predict the future, but they can look to the past evidence, current events, players and their histories to paint a clearer picture of just what that means, and the position is more sinister than the words evidence.
Trump’s pick for attorney general is a complete 180 from Obama’s. Where Holder’s policy was to allow the states to do what they wish, Sessions is more than likely going to push for only the most “legal” and “medical” versions of cannabis– FDA approved cannabis-based drugs.
“States, they can pass the laws they choose. I would just say, it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not… I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we’re going to have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store”, Sessions said in an address to the National Association for Attorney’s General.
Get real about fake marijuana
Ever hear of Marinol? It is a legal Schedule III drug still prescribed today which is pure synthetic THC, the exact cannabinoid blamed for cannabis being a dangerous and addictive drug. It was created in the mid-1980s in response to AIDS patients calling marijuana “medical” and comes with side effects not found in botanical cannabis. Somehow, Marinol never became very popular on the black market, or even with patients. Since the 1990s, the people still pushed to legalize grow-your-own genetically-diverse cannabis.
Despite botanical cannabis being the proven most effective form of medical use, it is nearly impossible to get through the FDA-approval process. The process costs, on average, between $500 million and $3 billion, per new drug approval from start to finish. Further, because clinical trials are based on “active ingredients” and cannabis has hundreds that vary by strain and seed, it seems the plant-shaped medicine doesn’t fit so nicely into a pill-shaped approval process.
Enter GW Pharmaceutical, a British firm making two botanical cannabis products; Sativex and Epidiolex. Both products come from a stabilized cloned strain of cannabis, grown in a greenhouse, extracted into food-grade alcohol and bottled. Sativex and Epidiolex are no different than the alcohol tinctures available at state-legal dispensaries or easily made at home with unsophisticated equipment. The only difference? These medicines have been made by a publicly traded company that will soon also be making the only cannabis medicines that can be prescribed and covered by insurance.
Because Sativex and Epidiolex are two separate strains, once they are approved, only that exact formulation of cannabinoids and terpenes becomes legal and considered medicine and only if it is produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. Most importantly, this means these strains and medicines can be patented, produced by a single company and price-fixed like other medications.
As GW Pharmaceuticals opens the door to FDA-approval of pharmaceutically-produced cannabis products, expect to see more of these types of drugs approved. President Trump himself has a network of ties to Florida’s medical cannabis licensees, which are all set up to create medicines that can also be FDA-approved and prescribed. Many of the investors in Florida’s licenses have ties to gambling, pharmaceuticals and the alcohol industry, suggesting they are re-routing their investments from industries that benefited from prohibition to those that will capitalize and control legalization.
This isn’t just speculation. Pharmaceutical giant Insys, the makers of Fentanyl, paid big money to defeat legalization last year in Arizona. The drug testing industry, long one of the most predatory industries in America, has been at the center of anti-legalization campaigns in places like Nevada. Even Kevin Sabet, the self-proclaimed “quarterback” of the anti-legalization movement is being propped up through shady shells by the pharmaceutical industry. All parrot Sessions’s words, “legal and medical cannabis is ok, but all this home grown high-THC marijuana is too dangerous to let loose on the public”, despite the hundreds of millions of Americans who have chosen to use it regardless of the law for nearly a century.
It’s just good weed business
This is bad news for the consumer market though, especially patients, who under new pharmaceutical cannabis schemes will only have access to approved cannabinoid formulations despite other strains potentially being more effective and already available on the recreational and illicit markets. It’s especially bad news for seriously disabled patients without the ability to pay out-of-pocket prices on “recreational” marijuana if that is the form most effective for them.
Medical cannabis has 93 percent approval nationwide, but of course, that is just the concept of medical cannabis, the polling doesn’t account for the details. If this administration finds a version of medical cannabis that “looks more medical” and can be publicly traded and profited heavily from, it is likely to become a fixture.
What patients consider “medical marijuana” and what the stock market considers “medical marijuana” are two very different things. One will be defended with financial and legal powers, the other by people who are often too physically ill and underfunded to succeed.
Recreational marijuana, like gambling, will likely be contained in the places it is legal, but expect to see the “crackdown” Spicer alluded to refer to home growers or anyone suspected of providing cannabis to the illegal market. Sure, breaking the law should have consequences, but if the legal market presents too many barriers to entry for small businesses, how many growers will end up on the black market and be subject to arrest again? How many patients will go to jail because they prefer the “wrong” kind of medical marijuana?
What do you think is going to happen to the future of marijuana in the US under the Trump Administration? Let us know in the comments section below.