When it comes to cannabis legislation, some government officials want change and reform, while others want to continue a prohibition that goes against science, medicine, social justice and the democratic will of the people. If Santa Claus really does have a naughty and nice list, he obviously put the prohibitionists on the extra naughty list. Nick is a saint after all.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has kept its own naughty and nice list of sorts, which consists of congressional voting records and relevant member statements. The organization compiled scorecards and assigned grades A through F to all members of congress, and NORML lists at least 26 U.S. Senators who are dedicated to cannabis prohibition and rightfully belong on the naughty list. With President-Elect Trump soaring into the White House, we compiled our own naughty and nice list with a little help from NORML.
1) Donald Trump
Mr. Trump leads the way on our elite list of top five naughty government officials because of his unwavering and endless parade of hostile nominees and his lack of commitment toward medical legalization. The many choices he’s made have been on the ultra-conservative side, choosing old bucks who support the War on Drugs. He’s quickly placing our heads deep in the freezing Arctic snow when it comes to cannabis reform and compassion for those who require cannabis for medicinal reasons.
2) Mike Pence
Number 2 is Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. Since Trump has no prior experience in politics, perhaps he’ll have to rely on his VP for briefings, policy and the basics of how government works. Pence is the pro-tobacco, anti-cannabis governor from Indiana where possession of a small amount of cannabis is punishable by a $1,000 fine and/or 180 days in jail. His opposition to reform has been a vocal one. Pence called cannabis a gateway drug and took measures to stop all reform in the state. His anti-cannabis tone could impact the future of Trump’s stance on the issue and might easily influence the administration’s drug policy.
3) Jeff Sessions
Trump’s pick for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, earned an F on the NORML scorecard. He once joked to an African-American colleague that he was fine with the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot.” As Attorney General, Sessions would have the power to force 420-friendly states into compliance with federal law and crack down on the states that legalized cannabis for certain medical conditions. His anti-cannabis rhetoric has been splashed across the media and earned him a stocking full of coal.
4) Tom Price
Representative Tom Price of Georgia, if confirmed by the Senate, will be the next Health and Human Services Secretary. Mr. Price voted against even modest changes to cannabis policies. Although federal regulation of illicit drugs rests primarily with the Justice Department, the HHS secretary holds some power that could restrict how available cannabis is in states that legalized it for recreational and/or medicinal use. For example, drug policy watchdogs say the agency could penalize doctors or sue sellers who work with medical marijuana states. Price’s long history against policy reform includes voting six times against amendments preventing the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws and voting three times against a measure that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans in need. Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, called Trump’s pick a “terrible development,” raising red flags and warning signs that the Trump Administration could take a harder line on legalization.
5) John F. Kelly
Retired Marine General John F. Kelly, Trump’s pick for the head of Homeland Security, is a widely respected military officer who served for more than 40 years. Kelly has sounded the alarm about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats that he sees as emanating from Mexico and Central and South America. His views on cannabis reform seem less defined than Sessions or Price, but he is still hostile to legalization. Kelly served as the head of the U.S. Southern Command, a post that gave him oversight on issues relating to the international illicit drug trade and the flow of narcotics from countries in the Southern Hemisphere. He’s critical of marijuana legalization and calls the plant “a gateway to harder drugs,” though he does support the use of medical cannabis.
1) Cory Booker
The Senator from New Jersey, Cory Booker (D), said the DEA’s failure to reclassify cannabis is disappointing. He believes many Americans can experience real medical benefits if treatment is brought out of the shadows, and choosing to ignore the medical value of cannabis defies common sense and scientific evidence. It’s time for federal policy to catch up. Mr. Booker was instrumental in the passing of The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS) introduced in 2015. It’s goal is to reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II substance and to recognize it has accepted medical use. The law would also amend federal law to allow states to set up their own medical marijuana programs and prevent federal law enforcement from prosecuting patients, doctors and caregivers in those states.
2) Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York (D) was also part of the trio that introduced the CARERS Act. The bill ensures fair treatment for medical marijuana patients and providers. She said, “The conflict between state and federal statute is confusing doctors, patients and providers alike. People aren’t sure what’s legal and what isn’t, and the gray area that’s resulted is hindering health care and the industry’s development. No other drug, Schedule I or otherwise has been subject to the same constraints.”
3) Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a former presidential candidate, was the lone Republican in the trio that introduced the CARERS Act. He recently said, “I don’t think the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment. We were never intended to have crime dealing at the federal level. Crime was supposed to be left to the states. The federal government shouldn’t interfere.”
4) Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said she believes Massachusetts, which recently legalized recreational cannabis, will benefit from decriminalization and that it will be safely regulated. She also said we need to learn from other states that legalized it, but “we can’t do serious medical research because of the way the government classifies it.” Rumors have it that Warren may be a frontrunner in the next presidential election. While four years seems far away, it’s only one giant leap into the future legacy of the country.
5) Donald Trump
Last on our nice list is the most important of all, President-Elect Trump. While he topped our naughty list, The Donald has thrown out positive innuendos toward supporting state-controlled policy and medical use. His slippery ways and the fact that he’s surrounded himself with naughty naysayers require mindfulness as to where he’ll land in the end. Trump repeatedly vowed to leave the question of prohibition “to the states.” Any federal crackdown would inspire massive backlash, both from “green state” voters and from the burgeoning legal cannabis industry. Santa is hopeful there’s good news ahead and that Mr. Trump won’t shake the beautiful trees that provide medicinal power and relief.
The question remains,
“Are You a Mean One, Mr. Trump?
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You’re as charming as an eel,
You’re a bad banana
With a greasy black peel…”
Mr. Trump, we hope you’re like The Grinch who evolved from naughty to nice. We obviously like you better on the nice list.