Trump Health Secretary Ignores Marijuana Questions

By Tom Angell | February 10, 2017

As the new head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tom Price will wield enormous influence over the Trump administration’s cannabis policies.

But MassRoots has learned that Price chose not to respond to a U.S. senator’s written questions about marijuana’s potential in fighting the opioid epidemic prior to being confirmed for the office early Friday morning by a vote of 52-47.

As HHS secretary, Price, who until recently served as a U.S. House member from Georgia, will oversee the federal government’s scientific research programs on marijuana’s potential harms and medical benefits. He will also play a key role, along with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in shaping the Trump administration’s rulings on potential petitions to reschedule cannabis.

Knowing this, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent Price a couple of cannabis questions in a letter last month:

Medical marijuana has the potential to mitigate the effects of the opioid crisis. A 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine study, for example, found that the fatal opioid overdose rate was 25% lower in states that allow for the use of medical marijuana than in states that do not.

a. As HHS Secretary, what would you do to further study this potential alternative?

b. Are you committed to implementing evidence-based policies regarding its use?

A Senate staffer tells MassRoots that Price didn’t bother responding to the marijuana questions or the other queries in Warren’s 20-page letter.

That Price didn’t see fit to address a U.S. senator’s questions about cannabis’s role in mitigating increasingly prominent opioid overdose issues doesn’t necessarily bode well for how seriously he will consider decisions on marijuana policies as health and human services secretary.

Nor does his record on the issue as a member of Congress. Price voted six times against House floor amendments to prevent Department of Justice interference with state medical cannabis laws. He also voted against three amendments that would have allowed military veterans to receive medical marijuana recommendations from Department of Veterans Affairs doctors. And he voted against a measure to protect all state marijuana laws — including ones allowing recreational use — from federal harassment.

However, Price did support a number of less far-reaching measures to protect state laws allowing CBD extracts from federal interference, and to let states implement industrial hemp programs.

Warren, for her part, has emerged as a leader on marijuana reform issues in Congress. In addition to trying to press Price on the topic, she spoke out against Sessions’s anti-marijuana record in a floor speech leading up to the vote on his confirmation this week.

Tom Angell

Tom Angell is a senior political correspondent for MassRoots. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority and is editor of the daily Marijuana Moment newsletter.

Follow MassRoots

Subscribe to the best cannabis news