President Trump is considering naming a Republican congressman who supports the right of states to set their own marijuana laws as head of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL), a veteran who lost both of his legs as a result of war wounds inflicted in Afghanistan, is a candidate to replace recently fired VA Sec. David Shulkin.
Mast on several occasions has made clear that he doesn’t want the federal government interfering with local marijuana laws. As VA secretary, he would be in a position to allow the department’s doctors to finally begin recommending medical cannabis to military veterans in states where it is legal, something that Shulkin and previous secretaries have refused to do.
“I speak about states’ rights even when they’re things that most people would assume that I would not agree with the issue because I’m a Republican,” Mast, who was elected to the House in 2016, said in a town hall meeting shortly after taking office last year. “[Marijuana] is not an issue where I differ on states’ rights.”
But while he referred to the Food and Drug Administration approval process, which cannabis proponents have not yet been able to fully navigate, he also said he is a “proponent for alternative forms of medicine in our VA that don’t exist, whether you’re talking about our veterans having access to get chiropractic care, or a great deal of other things. I think there are a lot of things out there that are not supported, but should be.”
Similarly, in a debate shortly before the 2016 election, Mast said, “I simply don’t want the federal government involved in places where they shouldn’t be involved… Marijuana is one of those issues that’s not covered in the Constitution. I would not like to see the federal government playing a role in deciding whether it’s something that should be allowed by each one of the states.”
On the same day Mast won his congressional race, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to legalize medical cannabis.
Despite voicing support for states’ rights to set their own cannabis laws when asked, Mast has not yet added his name as a cosponsor of any of the dozens of marijuana reform bills that are pending in the House.
Meanwhile, legislation to encourage the VA to study the medical benefits of cannabis is advancing in Congress, with the House Veterans Affairs committee approving the bill this week.
Currently, under both American law and global drug treaties to which the U.S. is a party, marijuana sits in the most restrictive category of Schedule I. Here at home, that means cannabis is not available for formal prescriptions and research on its effects is significantly restricted. Internationally, it means that countries signed onto drug treaties are not supposed to legalize cannabis.
But the United Nations World Health Organization is now beginning its first-ever review of marijuana’s classification, and is inviting input from member nations like the U.S.
And the Trump administration is accepting public comments that it will use to inform the the U.S.’s position on the issue before it weighs in on the global scheduling process.
Starting on Monday, and through April 23, interested persons can easily submit comments online about why the U.S. should support reclassifying marijuana.
Doing so takes only a few minutes.
Comments can run up to 5,000 characters, and people can also attach supporting documentation if they like. Commenters can choose whether or not to include their contact information along with their submissions.
If the WHO does move to support the rescheduling of cannabis under international agreements, it will likely add to pressure to change marijuana’s status under the laws of individual countries like the U.S.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
President Trump is preparing to support far-reaching legislation to reform federal marijuana prohibition so that states can enact their own cannabis laws without interference.
“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in a statement. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”
In a briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the development, calling Gardner’s statement “accurate.”
“We’re always consulting Congress about issues including states’ rights, of which the president is a firm believer,” she said.
Sanders revealed that Trump and Gardner spoke about the issue several times in recent days, including on Friday.
The news of the legislative deal, which was first reported by the Washington Post, comes after Gardner placed a hold on Justice Department nominees in protest of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescinding of Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
Now, things have changed.
“Because of these commitments [to support marijuana legislation], I have informed the Administration that I will be lifting my remaining holds on Department of Justice nominees,” Gardner said. “My colleagues and I are continuing to work diligently on a bipartisan legislative solution that can pass Congress and head to the President’s desk to deliver on his campaign position.”
A source close to the discussions, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told Marijuana Moment that Sessions was not a party to the new deal between the White House and Gardner.
Details of the legislation are yet to be announced, but in a Facebook Live interview with KDVR-TV in Denver, Gardner said it would be a “universal fix” for federal issues faced by cannabis businesses, including access to banks.
In an interview with The Cannabist, Gardner added that he “would envision this legislation taking care of” tax issues as well.
The Colorado senator also said that he and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are close to finalizing a draft bill, which will be “hopefully moving soon.”
Neal Levine of the New Federalism Fund called the news a “game changer,” saying in an interview that “if we’re going to have legislation that ends prohibition on the federal level in any state that’s opted out of prohibition in some form, those issues [like banking] are all going to be resolved.”
Trump repeatedly pledged during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would respect state marijuana laws, a promise called into question when Sessions rescinded the Obama Justice Department’s memo in January.
A timetable hasn’t been set for the new marijuana legislation, though it will be crafted by a bipartisan working group of senators.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of the House’s leading champions for marijuana law reform, praised the news but urged caution.
“This is another head spinning moment. We should hope for the best, but not take anything for granted. Trump changes his mind constantly, and Republican leadership is still in our way,” he said in a statement. “Momentum is clearly building in the states and here in DC. The tide is changing. Now is the time to redouble our efforts.”
We can’t take anything for granted. Trump changes with the wind & GOP leadership is still in our way. We need to protect the integrity of state-legal marijuana programs by acting NOW.
The federal government must respect the decision Oregonians made at the polls. I’m going to keep fighting to protect Oregon’s legal marijuana program and pushing for national reform. https://t.co/807gS9Jnf2
While confirming that Trump “does respect Colorado’s right to decide for themselves how to best approach this issue,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short also told the Washington Post that the White House is frustrated with Gardner’s tactic of blocking presidential nominees.
“Clearly, we’ve expressed our frustration with the delay with a lot of our nominees and feel that too often, senators hijack a nominee for a policy solution,” he said. “So we’re reluctant to reward that sort of behavior. But at the same time, we’re anxious to get our team at the Department of Justice.”
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
The man that sits behind Trump at his speeches, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is arguably the only person who despises the marijuana revolution more than Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s endorsement of Trump may not mean much in the way of marijuana, but if he is donating funds to Trump’s campaign (a likelihood), Adelson will surely occupy real estate in Trump’s ear.
That means marijuana’s two most dangerous and powerful opponents would literally be right behind Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. Along with his effort in Florida, Adelson has also forced the Las Vegas newspaper he owns to retract its pro-cannabis stance.
Given that over 80% of Americans support medical marijuana in the United State, Donald Trump will likely say all the right things leading up to November’s vote and continue to seem like he’s for medical marijuana. But no one truly knows whether or not that voiced stance is reality or a mirage.
On the same day that Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, proclaimed that it was time to end cannabis prohibition at the federal level, Republican candidate, Donald Trump also took a firm stance on the campaign topic of cannabis in the United States.
Although Trump has recently been open about his support for the medicinal use of marijuana, this is the first time during this presidential race that he has proclaimed his stance on recreational cannabis. At a political rally in Reno, Nevada Trump stated,
“In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state.”
“Marijuana is such a big thing. I think medical should happen — right? Don’t we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states.”
Although those statements sound undeniably supportive, his attitude changed slightly as he continued. Trump elaborated, “And I love Colorado and the people are great, but there’s a question as to how it’s all working out there, you know? That’s not going exactly trouble-free. So I really think that we should study Colorado, see what’s happening.”
Still, statements such as these show that his views have changed dramatically in just four months. In response to a question about legalization in Colorado, at the CPAC conference in June, Trump said,
“I say it’s bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about it.”
Trump’s newest comment, supporting each states’ right to choose whether or not to legalize, is slightly more aligned with statements he made during a speech at a luncheon sponsored by the Miami Herald in 1990, where he proclaimed that the War on Drugs was a failure and a joke. During the same speech, Trump said that it was time to legalize all drugs in the United States in order to take profits out of the hands of cartels.
While Trump may not be completely clear as to what he thinks in regards to cannabis, considering that he swears he has never used any form of the plant, it seems as though he may be listening to the majority (85 percent) of Americans who reportedly support full legalization. It will be interesting to watch how his opinions about legalization evolve in the coming months.