President-elect Donald Trump has selected an opponent of marijuana law reform to be the nation’s next top health official.
In picking Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Trump is putting a legislator who has repeatedly voted against medical cannabis amendments in command of the federal government’s health and medicine regulatory bodies.
Advocates are already concerned about the selection of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a leading anti-legalization voice in Congress, as attorney general. Together, as the heads of HHS and the Justice Department, Price and Sessions would be the two key officials to decide on petitions to reschedule marijuana under the Trump administration.
As a member of the U.S. House, Price voted six times against amendments to prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. He also voted three times against amendments to allow military veterans to get medical cannabis recommendations through Department of Veterans Affairs doctors. And he also voted against a broader amendment to protect all state marijuana laws — including ones allowing recreational use — from federal interference.
Price did support a handful of much more modest marijuana law reforms, for example voting in favor of an amendment to allow states to implement laws authorizing patients to use low-THC/high- cannabidiol (CBD) preparations. And, he has voted in favor of amendments aimed at letting states implement industrial hemp programs.
Price’s wife, Betty, is a state representative in Georgia and was one of only eight members of the state House to vote against a medical cannabis bill earlier this year.
On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly pledged to respect state marijuana laws, saying that he personally knows people who benefit from medical cannabis.
But advocates are worried that by filling the Cabinet with people like Price and Sessions, the Trump administration may not end up following through on those campaign promises.
In order to serve as HHS secretary, Price must first be confirmed by the Senate after he is formally nominated early next year. He will also face hearings before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
If confirmed, Price would oversee agencies under HHS such as the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.