Less than two weeks after appointing Jeff Sessions, a man who once told a Senate hearing that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” as America’s new Attorney General, Donald Trump has named yet another anti-cannabis crusader to cabinet.
Rep. Tom Price has been announced as the divisive President-elect’s pick to be the new Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), a position that could offer more control over medical access to cannabis in the United States.
As a member of Congress, Price (R-Ga.) has opposed a number of drug-related proposals in recent years. His record includes voting against measures that would prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state recreational and medical marijuana laws, as well as voting against a measure that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana, which has earned him a “D” grade on policy from NORML.
Although the regulation of illicit drugs remains primarily under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, Price could potentially restrict how available marijuana is in states that have legalized it for recreational or medicinal use. For instance, drug policy critics say that the HHS could penalize doctors or sue vendors who work with medical marijuana in those states because cannabis remains illegal under federal law.
Recreational cannabis use is now fully legal in eight states plus Washington, D.C. after voters in California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine approved ballot initiatives on the Nov. 8 federal election. Voters in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota increased the number of U.S. states with legal medical marijuana to 28. A recent Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans now approve of legalizing cannabis.
While his appointment is seen as a blow to the legalization movement, the 62-year-old lawmaker and physician has nonetheless shown he is not automatically opposed to anything and everything to do with cannabis. Price has also supported a measure preventing the Justice Department from interfering with states that allow the medical use of CBD to treat epilepsy and also voted to ensure that federal funds aren’t used to interfere with research into industrial uses of hemp.