President Donald Trump seemed to acknowledge the failure of policies prohibiting drugs during a meeting on vaping.
“When you watch prohibition, when you look at the alcohol, you look at cigarettes, you look at it all, if you don’t give it to them, it’s going to come here illegally,” Trump said on Friday. “That’s the one problem I can’t seem to forget.”
The president was meeting with people from both sides of the debate on whether to enact restrictive moves such as a ban on flavored vaping products that his administration initially floated before dropping the idea.
“You just have to look at the history of it,” he said. “Now, instead of having a flavor that’s at least safe, they’re going to be having a flavor that’s poison. That’s a big problem”
Trump picked up on an argument that reform advocates have repeatedly raised. While some policymakers and prohibitionists have called for blanket bans on certain vaping products in response to a recent spike in vaping-related lung injuries, advocates say history has taught us that such an uncompromising approach will do more harm than good.
“How do you solve the fact that it’s going to be shipped in from Mexico? That’s a problem,” he said. “You have the same problem with drugs and everything else.”
The remarks echo a comment Trump made in 1990, when he voiced support for legalizing drugs to undermine the unregulated market.
‘We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said at the time. ”You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars.”
While marijuana didn’t come up in the meeting last week, Trump’s position could also apply to the debate over contaminated THC cartridges that seem to have played a role in most vaping-related health complications. Prohibitionists have contended that the connection demonstrates why cannabis shouldn’t be legalized, even though officials in the Trump administration’s health agencies point out that the vast majority of those THC-related cases involved unregulated products obtained on the illicit market.
Marijuana reform advocates have argued that the fact that most vaping injuries are linked to illicit products shows why it’s important to have a legal, regulatory framework for marijuana, just like there are regulations for substances such as alcohol and tobacco that are designed to improve public health and safety.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has also signaled that the vaping crisis reveals a need for a federal regulatory scheme for the cannabis market.
Later in the Friday meeting, Trump seemed to embrace a harm reduction perspective on vaping products, noting that experts say vaping is significantly less dangerous than smoking combustable cigarettes. He also asked at one point about whether states should have the right to set their own age limit for being able to purchase e-cigarettes.
When it comes to marijuana, the president has said on a few recent occasions that he’s supportive of allowing states to set their own cannabis policies.
“It’s a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision,” Trump said in August. “A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.”
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.