Anti-Pot Staffers Conspire to Turn Trump Against Marijuana Federalism

A White House policy committee is collecting information on "negative trends" and "threats" associated with legalization.


Leah Millis / Reuters / Newscom

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is required by statute to "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize" federally prohibited drugs. Toward that end, BuzzFeed's Dominic Holden reports, the ONDCP has asked agencies across the executive branch to share any information that reflects badly on marijuana legalization, including "data demonstrating the most significant negative trends." According to internal memos that Holden obtained, the material will be distilled by something called the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, which seems intent on getting Donald Trump to reconsider his support for letting states go their own way in this area.

While running for president, Trump repeatedly said the federal government should not obstruct marijuana legalization by the states, although he expressed concern about the consequences. Last June, notwithstanding Attorney General Jeff Sessions' threats of a federal crackdown, the president said he "probably will end up supporting" the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would exempt state-legal marijuana activities from the federal ban. That position clearly did not sit well with some of the president's advisers.

Since Sessions is out of favor with the White House and the acting director of the ONDCP, James Carroll, seems to be little more than a placeholder, someone else is probably behind the effort to sway Trump against marijuana federalism. The Washington Monthly's Nancy LeTourneau suggests that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a gung-ho drug warrior who used to oversee interdiction as secretary of homeland security and head of the U.S. Southern Command, is "the most likely culprit." Kelly has repeatedly complained about the demoralizing effect that marijuana legalization has on America's allies in the war on drugs.

Holden reports that the ONDCP asked agencies and departments to supply "two-page, bulleted fact sheets that identify marijuana threats," along with what a White House directive described as "a story, relating an incident or picture, that illustrates one or more of the key areas of concern related to use, production, and trafficking of marijuana." The aim seems to be an easily digestible presentation that will reinforce the president's doubts about the wisdom of legalization and make him forget his commitment to respecting state autonomy.

According to a summary of a July 27 White House meeting with department officials that Holden quotes, the presidential propaganda project is all about balance. "The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate," the summary says. "Staff believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production, and trafficking on national health, safety, and security."

The BuzzFeed report prompted criticism from legislators who represent Colorado, the first state to allow recreational sales of marijuana. "By cherry-picking data to support pre-ordained and misinformed conclusions on marijuana, the Trump administration has further eroded any credibility it had on this issue," writes Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in a letter he sent yesterday to Carroll, the acting drug czar. "I am deeply concerned by this intentional effort to mislead the American people. At a time when we should be investing in objective and peer-reviewed scientific research on marijuana and the effects of legalization, the White House is instead using taxpayer money to spread a politically driven narrative."

Bennet overlooks the fact that Congress tasked the ONDCP with doing just that, since the office is statutorily bound to oppose legalization by any means necessary. But his dismay is probably shared by other members of Congress, Republicans as well as Democrats, who represent states that have legalized marijuana and who thought the president was committed to respecting those choices. Trump's decision to "probably" support the STATES Act grew out of a dispute with Bennet's fellow Colorado senator, Cory Gardner, a Republican who blocked Justice Department appointments in response to Sessions' threats against state-legal cannabis.

"Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states' rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana," Gardner said after conferring with Trump last April. Gardner said the president had assured him that new Justice Department priorities under Sessions "will not impact Colorado's legal marijuana industry" and that Trump "will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all." No matter how persuasive the talking points soliciting by the ONDCP, reneging on that commitment will carry a political cost.

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  1. If only Trump realized the accolades he would get from untapped, heretofore un-political corners of the twittersphere were he to un-schedule the marijuana.

    1. Who cares, those stoners never remember to show up on Election Day, amirite?

      1. No, not even close!

    2. That is unlikely to happen

    3. I don’t know about that, but he’ll lose some people if he cracks down on states.

    4. Imagine the turn the media would have to take to spin that one against him. OMG! Trump is trying to addict our youth.

  2. Bennet overlooks the fact that Congress tasked the ONDCP with doing just that, since the office is statutorily bound to oppose legalization by any means necessary.

    Finally, something approaching actual reporting on this issue. The ONDCP asks for data that makes marijuana look bad because that is what they are statutorily required to do. Worth noting as well that Trump tried to essentially eliminate the ONDCP over the protestations of progressives and journalists and STILL hasn’t named an actual drug czar. It’s like he thinks the whole office is bullshit and doesn’t MAGA at all.

    1. Why hasn’t he rescheduled huh huh he’s had eleventy days in office to do so he’s as bad as Obama right.

        1. And that’s how principles work. Now if we were to suddenly realize that the president did not reschedule weed pretending as if this is a new policy and not the same as his predecessors then you’d be as brain dead as Chandler Bing

          1. Still, AFAIK, not quite as bad as Obama. Technically, Obama has smoked it meaning he’s not only hypocritical but guilty as well. However, being on the more pro-marijuana, pro-liberty side of things I don’t much care that he smoked it.

      1. Why hasn’t he rescheduled huh huh he’s had eleventy days in office to do so he’s as bad as Obama right.

        I think you mean descheduling. Rescheduling creates a/the very real possibility that not only would consumers need prescriptions, but growers/sellers would be subject to FDA regulation.

        But, yes, pretty equally bad. The only distinctions being largely outside either man’s control and the slim margin that Trump still has the potential to do the right thing.

      2. As the unitary Executive Trump should direct that marijuana be removed from the schedules.

        He should also use that same authority to issue multiple other directives ending unnecessary and abusive exercise of Federal law enforcement authority.

    2. And it does a little light on ‘rubber meets the roads’ facts (it’s rehashed Buzzfeed, whachagonnado?).

      Not that I think the government *should* be amping up public health campaigns, but if the only thing to come out of this is a bunch of ‘I am the decisions I make’ posters, I might discover that my moral outrage knob is all the way across the room and the remote has fallen just out of arm’s reach.

      I look at this poster and am a bit hard pressed to say that it’s anti-drug/marijuana.

    3. The ONDCP asks for data that makes marijuana look bad because that is what they are statutorily required to do.

      Wrong. They are not statutorily required to ask other agencies and departments for data that makes marijuana look bad.

  3. Maybe this Bennett guy can add a little clause to his STATES law repealing the propanda mandate.

  4. Incidentally, the Civil War established that the our federal Union is unbreakable, *not* that the states composing the Union are irrelevant – indeed, if walking out isn’t an option, then all the more reason for the states to use other methods to keep the feds in bounds.

    Interesting that the most interesting experiment in state “nullification” is with dope, involving activists who are generally on the federal-centralization bandwagon.

    1. Almost everyone wants federal-centralization against those they consider undesirables.

  5. >>>an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use

    1936 called, said “Reefer Madness totally worked!”

  6. It’s a pity Trump’s a teetotaler, as otherwise he might be inclined toward being a libertine in this area as he is in the crotchal region.

    Double sad that, despite what he may claim, he is clearly not an abstainer out of any innate self-control, but because he has the mind of a child.

    1. the crotchal region


      1. I don’t really want to know what he calls it.

  7. There’s a conspiracy? That ought to catch Trump’s interest! On the other hand, “be the last one to talk to him about this issue” doesn’t take much of a conspiracy.

  8. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is required by statute to “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize” federally prohibited drugs.

    This blew my mind, but it probably shouldn’t.

  9. Once again, we are reduced to passing laws to prove the constitution says what it says.
    Marijuana has proven medical uses. It cannot legally be designated schedule one.

  10. Fuck the government. I’ll smoke what I want.

  11. Pot is a psychotic hallucinogen that causes mental illness and stays in the brain for months after each use.

    It is not benign and is not like alcohol.

    Of course all addicts want easy access. Then when they are useless and incapable of helping themselves, they’ll want you to feed, clothe and house them.

    And you will comply.

    1. Alcohol is benign?

      1. Alcohol leaves the body in a few hours, after which the user is sober.

        Pot stays in the brain for months meaning more frequent use ensures the user is Never sober.

        Pot causes mental illness.

        1. Rob wrote, “Pot causes mental illness.”

          Objective reference please. That’s not what I’ve seen. Cannabis users tend to be more mellow

          Even if it did, that’s not your business to coercively try to prevent it.

          1. /2016/apr/15/cannabis-scientists-call- for-action-amid-mental-health-concerns

            I suspect many people will never know they’re vulnerable to mental illness, until they do. Then it’s already too late, the correlation is clear.

            Considering all the collateral damage, if there could be a positive effect of legalization, it would be letting the users out of the closet, so they feel comfortable discussing their habit, thereby improving the research regarding brains on drugs.

            If you want to get rich selling mental illness to unknowing victims, i’ll Make stopping you my business.

            1. Here’s an example of drug wars causing mental illness.

        2. Don’t forget chromium damage, Lightnin. The Landover Baptist college of Creation Science has pee-revyood proof that cannibal saliva causes chromium damage.

        3. What caused your mental illness, scumbag?

    2. Sugar is bad for you, too. It also renders many people almost useless with diabetes. Generally speaking, though, those who are adamant about outlawing marijuana are equally adamant about not taxing sugary products. Weird, eh?

      1. We should ban peanuts before we ban marijuana… far more fatalities for the former. Peanuts have no recognized medical use and even though a few people can enjoy them without damaging their health, it’s better for everyone if we don’t take the risk.

    3. Are you stoned right now?

      The reason we don’t hear of all these pot addicts knocking over liquor stores is because they’re waiting for the stop signs to turn green, right?

  12. Says the lying media.

    Fuck you lying media.

    Trump is not even the drug warrior that Obama was.

    1. Drug warrior? Really?

      There must be extremely few activities where the dulled senses and reflexes from drug use are an advantage.

      Can you even think of one?

      1. Not getting a hangover. Not being as impaired as alcohol. Sparing my liver. …..just kicking back and chilling and not harming anyone as it is my ABSOLUTE MORAL RIGHT to do.

        1. Voting libertarian could transform that into a legal right.

  13. Gateway drug. Gateway for the feds to go after harder drugs.

  14. Legalization will give the state a piece of the pie, which will just increase more meddling, taxes, etc.

    Decriminalization would be a better way to go… marijuana use still won’t be a crime, but the state won’t make any money off it either.

    1. I’ve been arguing this forever. The cosmotarian line is “tax it, regulate it, commercialize it”.

    2. Decriminalization worked for Portugal these past 14 years. It’s basically a catch-and-release dope-forfeiture program.

    3. Decriminalization worked for Portugal these past 14 years. It’s basically a catch-and-release dope-forfeiture program.

  15. This is not Trump’s agenda. President Trump wanted to de fund ONDCP. This was reported by CBS News, Jan 20,2018 – Politico, Jan 18, 2018 – ABC News, Feb. 13, 2018 – Business insider, May 2017 – Washington Post, May 2017.

    There was push back from some republicans, law enforcement and most notably Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal.

    Marijuana Prohibition is a Big Government Program and more to the point – Today’s Cannabis Business Plan is Yesterday’s Marijuana Conspiracy.

  16. Another lame article that once again shifts the blame away from Trump and on to his lackey’s. Lackey’s that he hired.

    1. There is no blame to shift, you crazy lying bastard.

      1. Yet again, Trump does a 180 on his campaign rhetoric and instead of calling him out on it, writers like Sullum blame his underlings for leading him astray.

        1. Why? Because some unknown person on the Internet says so? How do you refuse to see there is no blame shifting? Hopefully he keeps up the state regulation model.

          1. Trump isn’t keeping up any state regulation model. As far as him and his attorney general are concerned; pot is illegal and the feds can initiate violence on those who possess it. Nothing has changed at the executive level.

  17. Oh crap. Buzzfeed provided no sources. No sources, no truth. Dominic Holden is a goddamned liar. I automatically disbelieve any “anonymous” sources or “documents” a newsrag doesn’t publish.

    And remember Buzzshit is the bunch of commie liars who pushed the Steele dossier.

  18. Great news! As the Soviet Empire collapsed the East German communist dictator wanted absolute coercion at gunpoint to continue as usual, and his toadies agreed. Unlike his predecessors at Nuremberg Hoenecker’s trial fizzled and never produced a hanging (or firing squad like Ceausescu). If the Don’s party gets hammered and the LP repeats its percentage gains to aggregate 9% of the popular vote, ours will be the spoiler votes for way more than the current 13 states. The Dems have nothing to offer except a carbon tax and treating power plants the way republicans treat Planned Parenthood.

  19. You obviously don’t know the meaning of the word “conspire”…

  20. We will just have to wait until the Democrats get unitary control of the government to get the proper cannabis legal schema.

    1. Not what they have accomplished, so far. It should have been fixed, years ago, when the Democrats had control!

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