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Alleged Trump Marijuana Promise At Center Of Feud Between White House Aide, Reporter And GOP Operatives

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President Donald Trump’s stance on marijuana legalization became the jumping off point for a spat between a top White House aide, Republican operatives and a reporter on Thursday after Chief of Staff Mark Meadows laughed off a question about the prospects of broad cannabis reform advancing before the election in November.

But the controversy wasn’t solely about the administration’s position on legalization; rather the dispute centered on how freelance reporter Matt Laslo characterized the conversation on Twitter, where he said that Meadows suggested pro-cannabis reform Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) “has been misleading voters on marijuana” and that “Trump has no plan to lift a finger on cannabis legalization or even normalization.”

Laslo also shared audio from the interview and wrote that it showed Meadows “mockingly laugh when I ask if Trump plans to carry through on his promise to [Gardner] to relax federal marijuana laws.”

There’s some nuance to note. Trump and Gardner have discussed cannabis policy, the senator told Marijuana Moment in a recent interview—specifically his bill titled the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act, which would allow states to set their own marijuana laws without federal intervention but would not federally deschedule, or legalize, cannabis. The president said in 2018 that he “really” supports the legislation.

But it isn’t clear that there has been an explicit “promise” on Trump’s part to actively push for the bill’s passage prior to November, though Laslo told Marijuana Moment that Gardner made clear in a Playboy interview the reporter did with the senator that he was under the impression it was, indeed, a pledge.

In any case, Meadows’s reaction to the question raises questions about if the administration is taking potential marijuana reform legislation seriously at all, whether through legalization or by simply protecting states’ rights.

That might not come as a particularly big surprise—especially considering that Meadows himself is a staunch opponent of cannabis legalization who consistently voted against reform amendments as a House member and that the administration has made other anti-marijuana hires.

But what is interesting is how White House Senior Communications Advisor Ben Williamson and other top GOP officials responded to Laslo’s tweets.

“Mark Meadows did not say Senator Gardner was misleading on anything—this is a blatant mischaracterization,” he said.

“He wasn’t laughing at Cory Gardner. He was laughing at getting a marijuana question out of left field from you,” he added. “So you’ve now directly misquoted him and also editorialized his motives to fit a hit piece you were writing.”

For context, here’s the audio recording of the conversation with Meadows, first reported for The News Station, and a transcript of the exchange: 

Laslo: Has there been any talk about moving marijuana legalization ahead of November?

Meadows: [Laughs]

Laslo: Trump promised it to Gardner.

Meadows: [Laughs]

Laslo: Some people say that disproportionately it affects minority communities.

Meadows: I’m not aware of anything on the agenda for the Senate or the House that would move a bill in that regard. We—the White House has not weighed in on that.

The communications aide to Trump and Meadows could have opted to avoid becoming involved in a story about marijuana policy, as one might have imagined with past Republican administrations reluctant to touch the issue. He also could have taken the opportunity to confirm that legalization wasn’t happening before November, or clarified that the president, in fact, does not support that policy change.

Instead, Williamson engaged in a back-and-forth to defend Meadows without dismissing marijuana reform—perhaps a sign of the political times given that a majority of voters across party lines now favor legalization. It could also be that the White House is sensitive to criticism of Gardner, who is in the midst of a reelection campaign in which polls show him trailing, and so they don’t want to create the appearance that a promise between him and Trump went unfulfilled, even if that promise was cannabis-related.

It’s also the case that the Trump reelection campaign is pushing a narrative that the president is the criminal justice reform candidate heading into November. While the Trump team hasn’t pushed for legalization, it has broadly criticized presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden as an “architect” of the war on drugs. Coming out against cannabis reform wouldn’t necessarily serve the image the campaign is trying to project for Trump.

From Laslo’s perspective, “it’s 100 percent [about] Gardner.”

“Even if you remember back in 2016, the first time Trump even teased the issue was in Colorado,” he said. “Trump knows his audience and the GOP knows their audience, and the party desperately needs Cory Gardner to win reelection if they want to maintain the Senate. I don’t think the president’s position even matters in this equation.”

For what it’s worth, Meadows can’t plead ignorance on cannabis issues, Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy told Marijuana Moment.

“There’s no way he’s unaware. There’s just no way. I have talked to Mark Meadows dozens of times about this issue. We have had real conversations,” Murphy said. “I can’t imagine that he doesn’t know. Meadows has been around long enough to know that the president does what the president does.”

“I see a lot of positives in this dust up,” he added. “It did create some interest in the topic.”

Other Republican operatives also seized on Lalso’s characterization of the Gardner component of the interview.

“I listened to the audio and this tweet is a complete lie. Nowhere in this does Meadows say that Gardner is misleading people on marijuana,” Joe Jackson, communications director for the Colorado GOP, said. “You should delete this.”

After the reporter threatened to release a further off-the-record conversation with the White House chief of staff that he said involved talk of marijuana in order to defend his reputation, a senior advisor for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) said, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.”

“You wouldn’t have to defend your name if you just deleted your dishonest tweet,” he said. “The story is fine. But you invented an exchange that didn’t happen, and I’d never let any member I work for talk to you again after that.”

“Misrepresenting what someone said and threatening to release off the record convos? All this from a ‘j-school professor’?” NRSC Communications Director Jesse Hunt added. “Do the right thing and delete the tweet.”

Laslo clarified to Marijuana Moment that while Meadows requested that the conversation be off-the-record, that was never agreed to.

“Do the right thing & read the article,” Laslo responded. “But I get this comms strategy – distract, distort, contort and rev up the base with barbs against ‘the enemy.’ I get it, but it’s tired.”

“Look in the mirror lately? The truth is a beautiful thing,” he tweeted. Seek and ye shall find; unless you like lies.”

“What I saw last night was so disgusting. They just did these ad hominem attacks at me as a person that were completely unfounded,” Laslo told Marijuana Moment. “I have a 14-year-record as a congressional correspondent, where I’m respected by top Republican leaders. I’ve got Mark Meadow’s cell phone number because he trusts me.”

Bernie Sanders Calls For Marijuana Legalization In Senate Floor Speech On Policing Reform

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Kansas Medical Marijuana Hearings Cancelled After Senate GOP Leader Reroutes House-Passed Bill

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A House-passed bill to legalize medical marijuana in Kansas seems to be in jeopardy, with GOP Senate leadership moving the legislation out of a committee and into a different panel where it may sit in legislative limbo, resulting in the cancellation of hearings that were scheduled to be held this week.

Advocates are concerned about the decision by Senate President Ty Masterson (R), who withdrew the cannabis reform legislation from the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee days before hearings were to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was then re-referred to the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee, which Masterson chairs and where the bill’s fate is unclear.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that medical marijuana legalization is off the table for Kansas in 2022, but it does seem to signal that the reform might need to be enacted through another vehicle, either in the legislature or at the ballot, as top Democratic lawmakers in the state are pursuing.

“We certainly hope that this action is just making sure that this bill meets any concerns that Senate leadership may have concerning this historic legislation,” Kevin Caldwell, a legislative manager at Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana Moment. “This bill had widespread bipartisan support in the House last session. We hope Senate President Masterson quickly holds a committee hearing and advances this legislation.”

When the proposal was being advanced in the House last year during the first half of the two-year session, members amended an unrelated bill that previously cleared the Senate to make it the chamber’s vehicle for the policy change. Because of that, it was ruled “materially changed” last May and sent to the Senate for committee consideration.

Now there’s a question of whether lawmakers will be motivated to introduce another separate bill and try to move it through both chambers, requiring another House vote. The Senate president seemed to temper expectations in recent remarks, telling The Kansas City Star that “not a single member” of his caucus has expressed that the issue “was important to them.”

That’s not how Kansas Democrats feel, however. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D) and Assistant Minority Leader Jason Probst (D) said this month that they will be introducing proposals to let voters decide on legalizing medical and adult-use marijuana in the state. At the time, Sawyer said he was “hopeful” that the legislature might separately advance the House-passed legalization measure.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

“The people of Kansas deserve to know if senators support the overwhelming majority of people who want to alleviate patients’ suffering with a medical cannabis program,” MPP’s Caldwell said. “Now is the time to show compassion to their fellow citizens and vote this bill out of committee.”

“Kansas is one of fourteen states left without a medical cannabis program,” he said. “We have faith that the Kansas Senate will pass this legislation this session and this is just another step in that process.”

Michael Pirner, Masterson’s communications director, told the Star that “medical marijuana legislation is not a priority of Senate leadership,” but did signal the issue may still be considered before the year is over.

“The subject matter has clearly matured and we expect it to be considered at some level this session,” he said. “There are many more pressing topics on the Senate agenda.”

The bill as drafted contains several significant restrictions, including a ban on smokeable cannabis. Members of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee did get a briefing on the issue at a meeting last week ahead of the expected, now-cancelled formal hearings before the panel.

Meanwhile, the constitutional amendment that the Democratic leaders are proposing would provide for a more comprehensive program that lawmakers would need to implement.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D), for her part, wants to see medical cannabis legalization enacted, and she said at a briefing with reporters on Friday that she “absolutely” thinks the bill could pass if “everything else doesn’t take up all the oxygen.”

She previously pushed a separate proposal that would legalize medical cannabis and use the resulting revenue to support Medicaid expansion, with Rep. Brandon Woodard (D) filing the measure on the governor’s behalf.

Kelly has she said she wants voters to put pressure on their representatives to get the reform passed.

The governor also said in 2020 that while she wouldn’t personally advocate for adult-use legalization, she wouldn’t rule out signing the reform into law if a reform bill arrived on her desk.

Marijuana Banking Bill Sponsor Says He’s ‘Gonna Get That Darn Thing Passed’ Before Leaving Office

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Marijuana Banking Bill Sponsor Says He’s ‘Gonna Get That Darn Thing Passed’ Before Leaving Office

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Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is retiring from Congress at the end of this session, but he says that he’s going to work to pass his marijuana banking bill before his time on Capitol Hill comes to an end.

The congressman spoke to Colorado Public Radio last week about his decision not to run for reelection this November and his disappointment that, while the House has approved the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act five times now in some form, the Senate has failed to advance it under both Republican and Democratic leadership.

“That one still has me pretty irritated,” Perlmutter said, referring to the fact that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has effectively blocked his bipartisan legislation. When there was a GOP Senate majority, he was told the bill was “too big and too broad.” Then with a Democratic majority, he’s told that it’s “too narrow and too limited.”

Schumer and his colleagues who are working on a federal legalization bill have repeatedly said that they do not want to see the SAFE Banking Act pass before comprehensive reform is enacted that addresses equity issues. Supporters of the banking bill argue that the incremental policy change is necessary for promote public safety and, importantly, it stands a much stronger chance of getting to the president’s desk with bipartisan support.

Nonetheless, Perlmutter said he plans to spend his remaining months in office pushing to get the job done.

“I have not given up on that one,” he said. “I’m gonna get that darn thing passed this year while I still serve out my term.”

Listen to Perlmutter discuss the marijuana banking legislation, starting around 10:24 into the audio below: 

Asked whether he thinks President Joe Biden would be inclined to sign the measure if it did get to his desk, the congressman said “absolutely.”

“Treasury Secretary [Janet] Yellen is somebody who has been talking to me about this for years,” he said. “I feel very good that it would pass. We’re at 47 states that have some level of marijuana use, all the territories and District of Columbia, and they need to have legitimate banking services.”

“It’s just a no brainer in my opinion,” he said. “And yeah, I’m a little bit irritated, but we’re gonna keep working on it and get it passed this year.”

The last attempt that Perlmutter made to enact the reform was by adding its language to a must-pass defense bill, but it was ultimately sidelined following bicameral negotiations and did not make it into the final version. The congressman told Marijuana Moment last month that he sees other potential vehicles to advance the bill and has spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) about it.

Even some Republicans are scratching their heads about how Democrats have so far failed to pass the modest banking reform with majorities in both chambers and control of the White House. For example, Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized his Democratic colleagues over the issue last month.

Top Federal Drug Official Says ‘Train Has Left The Station’ On Psychedelics As Reform Movement Spreads

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Top Federal Drug Official Says ‘Train Has Left The Station’ On Psychedelics As Reform Movement Spreads

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A top federal drug official says the “train has left the station” on psychedelics.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow said people are going to keep using substances such as psilocybin—especially as the reform movement expands and there’s increased attention being drawn to the potential therapeutic benefits—and so researchers and regulators will need to keep up.

The comments came at a psychedelics workshop Volkow’s agency cohosted with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) last week.

The NIDA official said that, to an extent, it’s been overwhelming to address new drug trends in the psychedelics space. But at the same time, she sees “an incredible opportunity to also modify the way that we are doing things.”

“What is it that the [National Institutes of Health] can do to help accelerate research in this field so that we can truly understand what are the potentials, and ultimately the application, of interventions that are bought based on psychedelic drugs?” Volkow said.

The director separately told Marijuana Moment on Friday in an emailed statement that part of the challenge for the agency and researchers is the fact that psychedelics are strictly prohibited as Schedule I drugs under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“Researchers must obtain a Schedule I registration which, unlike obtaining registrations for Schedule II substances (which include fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine), is administratively challenging and time consuming,” she said. “This process may deter some scientists from conducting research on Schedule I drugs.”

“In response to concerns from researchers, NIDA is involved in interagency discussions to facilitate research on Schedule I substances,” Volkow said, adding that the agency is “pleased” the Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced plans to significantly increase the quota of certain psychedelic drugs to be produced for use in research.

“It will also be important to streamline the process of obtaining Schedule I registrations to further the science on these substances, including examining their therapeutic potential,” she said.

At Thursday’s event, the official talked about how recent, federally funded surveys showed that fewer college-aged adults are drinking alcohol and are instead opting for psychedelics and marijuana. She discussed the findings in an earlier interview with Marijuana Moment as well.

“Let’s learn from history,” she said. “Let’s see what we have learned from the marijuana experience.”

While studies have found that marijuana use among young people has generally remained stable or decreased amid the legalization movement, there has been an increase in cannabis consumption among adults, she said. And “this is likely to happen [with psychedelics] as more and more attention is placed on these psychedelic drugs.”

“I think, to a certain extent, with all the attention that the psychedelic drugs have attracted, the train has left the station and that people are going to start to use it,” Volkow said. “People are going to start to use it whether [the Food and Drug Administration] approves or not.

There are numerous states and localities where psychedelics reform is being explored and pursued both legislatively and through ballot initiative processes.

On Wednesday—during the first part of the two-day federal event that saw nearly 4,000 registrants across 21 time zones—NIMH Director Joshua Gordon stressed that his agency has “been supporting research on psychedelics for some time.”

“We can think of NIMH’s interests in studying psychedelics both in terms of proving that they work and also in terms of demonstrating the mechanism by which they work,” he said. “NIMH has a range of different funding opportunity announcements and other expressions that are priorities aimed at a mechanistic focus and mechanistic approach to drug development.”

Meanwhile, Volkow also made connections between psychedelics and the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. She said, for example, that survey data showing increased use of psychedelics “may be a way that people are using to try to escape” the situation.

But she also drew a metaphor, saying that just as how the pandemic “forced” federal health officials to accelerate the development and approval of COVID-19 vaccines because of the “urgency of the situation,” one could argue that “actually there is an urgency to bring treatments [such as emerging psychedelic medicines] for people that are suffering from severe mental illness which can be devastating.”

But as Volkow has pointed out, the Schedule I classification of these substances under federal law inhibits such research and development.

The official has also repeatedly highlighted and criticized the racial disparities in drug criminalization enforcement overall.

Delaware Lawmakers File New Marijuana Legalization Bill With Key Equity Revisions

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