Trump Administration stymies approval of marijuana research applications
In the past two years since the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began accepting applications for marijuana research, approximately two dozen applicants are still waiting in limbo. Many weed enthusiasts are blaming the Trump Administration and the appointment of Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General for the breakdown in communication.
Sessions is a longtime critic of legalized cannabis for either recreational or medicinal use. He has, however, publicly stated on several occasions that he remains open-minded to the idea of more cannabis research in the future. Still, Session’s office has not approved or denied a single application in his nearly 2-years on the job. So, what gives?
Marijuana research applicants in limbo
According to a report issued by the Wall Street Journal, Sessions is not the government official directly in charge of the decision-making process. The responsibility for approval or denial of the applications falls to the DEA which is a branch of the Justice Department. Who runs the DEA? That’s where the story gets even confusing.
When Trump won the presidency and took office, Michele Leonhart was the then-current DEA Director. She resigned in May 2016 shortly after the election, and Trump had the presidential authority to replace her. He didn’t. To this day, Trump still has not appointed anyone to take over, even though the U.S. has been facing a massive, constantly-expanding opioid crisis for several years.
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According to federal regulations, when a DEA Chief resigns or leaves office for any reason, the next-in-line takes over until a new chief is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The next-in-line is a person is a man named Charles Philip “Chuck” Rosenberg, who now has the title of ACTING Director of the DEA. The term “acting” essentially means “temporary.”
Technically speaking, Rosenberg could – in theory – approve these 2-dozen applications for marijuana research, at the risk of pissing off AG Jeff Sessions…and by extension Donald Trump. Since Rosenberg is not even supposed to have his job as Acting DEA Chief in the first place, the chances of these approvals happening is almost nil unless Sessions gives Rosenberg the go-ahead. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports the following.
“The applicants include a variety of entrepreneurs, as well as a university professor and a former Navy SEAL who wants to study how marijuana might help veterans suffering from chronic pain and post-traumatic stress.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have voiced frustration at the delays, saying Mr. Sessions has repeatedly avoided questions about the status of the applications. The inaction, they say, is stalling much-needed research into the potential health benefits of marijuana as society takes a more tolerant view of its use.
A DEA spokeswoman referred questions to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.”
The sounds of silence from the DEA is seemingly speaking volumes. If the WSJ report is to be believed, both the GOP and the Democrats support the need for more marijuana research. So, what’s the problem? And how do marijuana research advocates solve their dilemma?
Marijuana, midterms, and mayhem
Once again, everything seems to be veering to a near-halt in Washington, DC until after the midterm elections. If Democrats can win control of at least one chamber of congress in November, like the House of Representatives, perhaps marijuana researchers can finally get their respective application approvals or denials. If the Dems do not win, then the current theory is that Trump is going to fire Sessions right after the midterms anyway. Then maybe POTUS will appoint a more-pot-friendly Attorney General.
In the meantime, there are four states with marijuana initiatives on the books for the 2018 midterms: Michigan, North Dakota, Utah, and Missouri. These are some of the most deeply-red, most Trump-loving states in the union, too. So, apparently, a large number of Trump supporters also support legal cannabis even if the Trump Administration seemingly doesn’t. That’s at least one thing that both Democrats and Republican seem to have in common – their love of weed.
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