- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2018

President Trump’s administration has quietly launched a multi-agency effort aimed at portraying marijuana in a negative light, BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday.

White House documents and interviews reveal the Trump administration has formed a committee tasked with objectives including smearing public support for marijuana, BuzzFeed reported.

Known as the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, the committee recently asked representatives from its 14 agencies and the Drug Enforcement Agency for “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and the “threats” it poses to the nation, the report said.

“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided and inaccurate,” reads a summary of a July 27 committee meeting cited by BuzzFeed.

“Departments should provide … the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends,” White House official wrote in a follow-up memo, according to BuzzFeed.

Agencies involved in the committee include the Departments of Defense, Education, Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, State, Transportation and Veterans Affairs, BuzzFeed reported.

The committee’s reports are ultimately slated to be used to brief the president on “on marijuana threats,” according to BuzzFeed.

“Staff believe that if the administration is to turn the tide on increasing marijuana use there is an urgent need to message the facts about the negative impacts of marijuana use, production and trafficking on national health, safety and security,” said the meeting summary.

The White House and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to discuss the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee when reached by BuzzFeed, the report said.

“The Trump administration’s policy coordination process is an internal, deliberative process to craft the President’s policies on a number of important issues facing the American people, and ensure consistency with the President’s agenda,” said Lindsay Walters, deputy White House press secretary.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law and considered a Scheduled 1 substance in the same category as heroin, but 30 states and the nation’s capital have legalized the plant for medicinal purposes, including nine that have outright legalized recreational weed.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support legalizing marijuana, according to multiple recent polls, and a study published earlier this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that roughly one-in-seven adults admitted using the plant in 2017.

“These are the death rattles of marijuana prohibition,” Justin Strekal, political director of NORML, a pro-marijuana group, said in a statement Wednesday. “Those who seek to maintain the oppressive policies of cannabis criminalization are grasping at straws in their effort to undo the public policy progresses that have now been enacted in a majority of states, and that are widely supported by voters of both major political parties.”

The Obama administration implemented policies that allowed states to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in spite of federal prohibition, but Mr. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, rescinded those guidelines earlier this year.

Mr. Trump, for his part, previously said he favored states being able to legalize marijuana and would “probably” support legislation shielding states no longer protected by the Obama-era policies.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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