A federal anti-drug program has started compiling information on medical marijuana patients, a move that has alarmed officials in states where medicinal use is legal.
Task forces funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, known as the drug czar’s office, have begun asking public health officials for data on the age, gender and medical condition of medical marijuana patients in at least eight states, Huffington Post reported.
In emails sent to regulators Dale Quigley, a former Colorado drug cop and a vocal opponent of marijuana legalization who now serves as deputy coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative, one of 32 regional organizations under the umbrella of the drug czar’s office seeking this information, said NMI is “doing comparative demographic research into states with medical provisions for marijuana and the use of a state-issued identification card.”
Quigley said he is not seeking to identify patients and insisted the data request doesn’t signal impending doom for medicinal marijuana programs.
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“There are no black helicopters warming up in the bullpen,” Quigley told the Boston Globe. “I have no idea where this is going to take us yet.”
Massachusetts, along with health officials in California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, Nevada and Colorado are all dealing with information requests. Most are sharing only the public information available on program websites, a practice Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, hopes states will stick to.
“With the anti-marijuana rhetoric coming from the Trump administration’s Department of Justice, and Quigley’s own past comments on the issue, you do have to wonder what the true motivation is here,” he said.
Angell said he hopes states that hand over data are careful it “cannot be used to support any ‘Reefer Madness’-induced enforcement efforts that Jeff Sessions may wish to launch.”
Even as public support for medical cannabis use has ballooned in recent years — a recent Quinnipiac poll says more than 90 percent of Americans support using the drug for medical reasons — the Trump administration has sent mixed messages on the issue.
For now, state medical marijuana programs are protected by congressional restraints and Obama-era guidelines that prohibit federal agents from interfering in state-regulated marijuana programs. But how long those protections stand is anyone’s guess.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been outspoken in his opposition to marijuana legalization, even for medical use. In February he formed a task force to study state medical marijuana programs, the findings of which have yet to be made public
Still, federal agencies deny their data inquiry is intended to change or shape federal policy on marijuana.
“The intent is to provide factual information about the consequences of medical marijuana, and we will provide this to the general public via our website,” NMI coordinator Ed Shemelya said, noting the agency has contacted all 29 states that have legalized medical marijuana.