As the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Tom Price will play a key role in any Trump administration decisions on the rescheduling of marijuana.
And his wife just announced that she's in support of moving cannabis out of its current status under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, a category that's supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value.
Betty Price, who is a medical doctor, isn't generally supportive of marijuana law reform. In fact, as a member of Georgia's House of Representatives, she has consistently opposed even the most modest reforms such as the state's current law that allows the use of low-THC cannabidiol preparations to treat a small number of medical conditions.
But on Tuesday, she voted in support of a resolution calling on the federal government to reschedule cannabis.
"I'm not aware of any studies that show efficacy of marijuana in any of the conditions that we have approved it for in Georgia," she said during a hearing of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. "On the other hand, there have been some trials [in other countries] that show it effective [in a] possibly limited fashion."
While stating that she's "appalled at the hijacking" of the medical process "in support of essentially legalizing recreational use of marijuana," Price told sponsoring lawmaker Rep. Heath Clark that, "I fully support your resolution because I think the only way to make any progress is to do studies."
She then joined most of her committee colleagues in voting to approve the resolution, which was pared down from an earlier version that went into more detail about the divide between state and federal marijuana polices.
As approved, the measure now calls on Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act "so as to reclassify marijuana so that its medical benefits and effects may be further researched."
Researchers have complained that marijuana's current Schedule I status adds unnecessary hurdles to the already rigorous approval process they must go through in order to study the drug's medical benefits.
Before being selected by Trump as Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price consistently voted against marijuana reform proposals as a member of the U.S. House.
For example, he voted six times against measures to prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. He also voted three times against amendments to increase military veterans' access to medical cannabis through the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also opposed a measure to protect all state marijuana laws, including ones that legalize recreational use, from federal interference.
As a congressman, Price did, however, vote in favor of an amendment to allow states to implement policies legalizing low-THC medical cannabis preparations similar to what's allowed under Georgia law.
Local cannabis reform advocates were pleased by Betty Price's rescheduling vote on Tuesday.
"Despite the fact that she doesn't support any of the medical cannabis bills in Georgia, it is still very encouraging that Dr. Betty Price still at least understands that the current scheduling of cannabis is out of touch with reality and 100% obsolete," Sebastien Cotte, a cofounder of Georgia's Hope, told MassRoots in an interview. "Hopefully her husband feels the same way and we can get cannabis out of schedule I in the near future."
Cotte's young son Jagger suffers from a rare mitochondrial disorder, and using medical cannabis oil has reduced the pain and seizures he experiences. Jagger has "been off morphine and oxy since using cannabis," Cotte said.
Georgia lawmakers are expected to pass new legislation this year to expand the state's law to add more qualifying conditions and to allow reciprocity for out-of-state patients.
State Rep. Price said that she's "not in support of our current Georgia law or anything that's coming down the pike."
But her support for rescheduling — and the conservations it might spark over her family's dinner table — will likely be much more significant in the growing national debate about marijuana's status under federal law.
This post was originally published on March 21, 2017, it was updated on October 5, 2017.