Report: White House panel trying to undermine cannabis legalization efforts

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A White House committee is working behind the scenes to portray marijuana in a bad light and undermine public support for state legalization efforts, BuzzFeed reported Wednesday.

The maneuvering, if true, could slow legalization efforts that would open new cannabis markets. But so far, there’s been little if any overt evidence of the campaign.

Initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana are on November ballots in Michigan and North Dakota, while measures to legalize medical marijuana are on tap in Missouri and Utah.

BuzzFeed reported the so-called Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee has told 14 federal agencies and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to collect data and other evidence that illustrate the dangerous aspects of marijuana.

“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate” (in favor of cannabis),” BuzzFeed quoted a summary of a July 27 meeting of the White House and nine departments.

President Trump has previously indicated he “probably” would support legislation that would allow states to decide for themselves whether to legalize marijuana – a point noted by a spokesman for one of the leading marijuana advocates in the U.S. Senate.

“There seems to be a lot of interest in these storylines going around about how staff are trying to manipulate the president or to work around his firmly held policy positions – including the position he’s held since the campaign that marijuana policy is best left to the states,” Alex Siciliano, communications director for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, said in a statement.

“Additionally, President Trump said publicly in June that he is likely to support Senator Gardner’s STATES Act,” Siciliano added.

Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily that MPP knows only what was in the BuzzFeed article.

But, Tvert added, it’s not surprising the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy “continues to try to cast marijuana and state legalization laws in a negative light.”

It’s unclear, he wrote, whether the federal agencies have actually responded to the request for negative information about marijuana, “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.”

“We also hope President Trump will maintain his previously stated position on marijuana policy and that his administration will continue providing deference to the states.”

Tvert concluded that as much as opponents try to “demonize marijuana and undermine reform efforts,” the country is clearly headed toward legalization.