This morning, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, completing a two-month transfer of power from the Obama administration.
According to transition team spokesman Sean Spicer, President Trump will retain the services of more than 50 Obama administration staffers, at least for the time being. The holdovers are in positions of great importance to departments that are less forgiving of a “transitional period.”
Spicer placed great emphasis on continuity, stressing that if “there is an attack or some kind of weather incident … make no mistake, we’re ready to go on Day 1.”
Some of the positions where Trump is not appointing new staff immediately include the Deputy Defense Secretary, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Obama’s top delegates focused on ISIS and human trafficking. For the most part, Spicer’s comments ring true and the appointees continuing their service into Trump’s term are essential to our defense and emergency services.
But one of these things is not like the others.
One notable Obama appointee that is sticking around for a little while is DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, who has been no friend of the marijuana community.
Despite mounting scientific evidence and research data, Rosenberg’s team of prohibitionist enforcers have not only denied millions of people access to medication that could drastically improve their lives, but doubled down on their stance with puzzling moves like singling out CBD on the Controlled Substances Act.
Here’s what the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency said about medical marijuana as part of a question-and-answer session with reporters in November, 2015:
“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,” Rosenberg said in a briefing to reporters. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”
“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally, he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
After Rosenberg’s “joke” comment about the medical cannabis community, over 150,000 signatures were collected on a Change.org petition by Marijuana Majority calling for Rosenberg’s ouster.
From the petition:
When the petition reached 100,000 signatures, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer delivered the letter to President Obama. The following is an excerpt of Rep. Blumenauer’s response to signers of the petition, but you can read his entire statement here.
It’s outrageous that the Acting Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) would trivialize these important programs and experiences. Chuck Rosenberg’s comments, calling medical marijuana “a joke,” are out of step with growing scientific evidence and the experience and opinion of the American people. He also ignores reforms happening across the nation – and the President, who long ago directed his Administration to stay out of the way of states’ legalization efforts.
These statements are also deeply hypocritical. While there are important questions that still need to be answered about medical marijuana, the research that would provide those answers is often blocked by federal policy barriers – supported by the DEA.
Until President Trump and his staff decide what role and direction they envision for the DEA, marijuana’s federal future will remain in the balance.
Cover Image Courtesy of The Daily Beast