By J.J. McCoy, Senior Managing Editor for New Frontier Data
Despite the extended process before the official appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions this past week, New Frontier Data found neither any closure to speculation within the cannabis market or much more clarity coming from the Trump administration as to just ‘What Comes Next?’
Spoiler alert: New Frontier feels your frustration, too. So when Tripp Keber, co-founder and CEO of Dixie Brands, told us on Thursday that he was still scouring eBay for a decent crystal ball to see into the future, we decided to seek answers from the past, instead.
Before some useful takeaways from the week, a bit more history:
In 1930, Harry J. Anslinger came onto the national scene to lead the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics. From that agency’s inception and throughout the administrations of five presidents, Anslinger would establish himself as a seminal figure in the shaping of American drug policy for the next several decades, even beyond his retirement in 1962.
Like his contemporary (and rival for headlines) J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, Anslinger was a conservative Republican and staunch anti-Communist, law-and-order man. He had been given his job by Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon (his wife’s uncle) during the time of Prohibition.
Back then, American use of cannabis was generally limited to the Southwest, especially along the Mexican border still making headlines today. Before he took the job, Anslinger even went on record to dismiss harm from cannabis, saying “there [was] no more absurd fallacy” than that it made users violent.
However, as author Doug Snead details in his 2008 book, “Reefer Madness: Revisited,” once the Department of Prohibition faced shutting its doors after the restored legalization of alcohol in 1933, Anslinger started compiling an anecdotal list of often unsubstantiated complaints about marijuana, within a few years going so far as to recast it as a “deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms... Hasheesh (sic) makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him.” By comparison to that, Sessions’ famous declaration that “good people don’t use marijuana” seems pretty tame.
Similarly, when Sessions last year claimed that “marijuana… is in fact a very real danger” despite increasing scientific evidence otherwise, it reminded us of Anslinger’s angry, kneejerk rejection of a 1944 report from scientists from the New York Academy of Medicine who he dismissed as “dangerous” and “strange” for having concluded that cannabis did not cause violent behavior, provoke insanity, lead to addiction, or promote opiate use. In Sessions’ case, he had sidestepped the 23,000 cannabis-related research papers that Harvard Medical School’s Lester Grinspoon referred to in Scientific American magazine while calling on the DEA to not only reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I controlled substance (like heroin), but to delist it altogether for continued and exhaustive studies about its potential use for everything from nausea, chronic pain, migraines, and glaucoma to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Point being, politicians have long made political hay from hemp, and sometimes lawmen try to polish their badges until they are shiny enough to distract the public from proven science. But even when belief in “alternative facts” leads to some sidestepping from progress, history marches on. Which reminds us of the week’s fresh takeaways for investors to take heart in:
- Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, and allow states to determine their own marijuana policies.
- Oregon state legislators introduced Bill #301 to prevent local employers from banning their employees from consuming cannabis during off hours.
- In the Georgia state house, its Medical Cannabis Working Group unanimously endorsed allowing medical cannabis possession by patients diagnosed with AIDS or HIV, Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, Tourette’s syndrome or people in hospice; State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) chairs the working group and sponsored House Bill 65 as the vehicle for legalization.
- New York state legislators have introduced bills A3506 and S3040 in the New York General Assembly to enact the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act to legalize adult use, giving ages 18 and older the right to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and grow as many as six plants for personal use.
- Ireland is set to legalize medical cannabis, after the Irish health minister gave support to its use “where patients have not responded to other treatments and there is some evidence that cannabis may be effective,” including the treatment of multiple sclerosis, severe epilepsy, and to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy.
Yes, there remains much yet to ascertain about the week that was, but on balance the momentum of recent progress moves apace.
J.J. McCoy is Senior Managing Editor for New Frontier Data. A former staff writer for The Washington Post, he is a career journalist having covered emerging technologies among industries including aviation, satellites, transportation, law enforcement, the Smart Grid and professional sports. He has reported from the White House, the U.S. Senate, three continents and counting.