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.
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.
This post was originally published on February 10, 2017, it was updated on March 24, 2017.