Trump’s Potential New Cabinet: Where Do They Stand On Drug Policy Reform?
Authors note: Just Believe Recovery does not have a political affiliation. This article is for informational purposes only. Opinions expressed by the author or correctly/incorrectly inferred by the reader do not reflect the opinions of this organization.
At the time of this writing, the country is just six days away from swearing in its first new president in 8 years, Donald Trump. Included in this process will be a major change in leadership, such as new appointees who may have a significant impact on U.S. drug policy reform.
Indeed, there are already quite a few names bandied about for consideration. Keeping in mind that we can’t be sure all of these are definite, they are at present a few key names in major contention for the Trump administration.
Attorney General: Jeff Sessions
Jefferson B. Sessions, native to Alabama, spent decades as a prosecutor before rising to Attorney General and eventually U.S. senator. He is probably the most controversial figures in contention for Trump’s cabinet.
Sessions appears to be very anti-cannabis. Recently, in a senate meeting he opposed marijuana legalization, and stated that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
If he does indeed remain staunch on expressing his opinions legislatively, he is poised to put an end to, and possibly reverse drug policy reform progress.
However, during the first day of his confirmation hearings, he was more vague on marijuana policies. He stated that he “won’t commit to never enforcing federal law” and noted that guidelines established by the Obama administration could be “truly valuable in evaluating cases.”
United Nations Ambassador: Nikki Haley
Nikki Haley is currently the governor of South Carolina, a pick announced around two months ago. While she has been in office, she appears to have demonstrated some interest in changing drug policy approach. For example, in 2014, she signed a bill into law that permitted the use of the non-psychoactive cannabis-derivative cannabidiol to treat seizure disorders.
Also, under her leadership, South Carolina enacted a law to make naloxone, the anti-overdose drug, more widely accessible. Two years ago, Gov. Nikki Haley’s prescription drug abuse task force released recommendations to combat opioid addiction in the state.
However, Haley will likely follow whatever White House drug policies are being implemented, and probably will not have have a tremendous impact on domestic drug policy reform. Instead, her role would most likely be to represent drug policy-related interests of the U.S. to other UN nations
Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor: Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon is a fmorer Goldman Sachs banker, He himself hasn’t such much about his views on drug policy, but his website had a few things to say.
One piece published at the site pretty much shot down the possibility of drug policy changes to reduce the incarceration rate. When President Obama commuted a round of sentences in November, issued a new round of sentence Breitbart wrote: “Obama Commutes More Drug Traffickers’ Sentences Amid Heroin Epidemic, Crime Spike.”
Department of Energy: Former Gov. Rick Perry
Rick Perry is a former Texas governor, and may be the most progressive-minded on this list in terms of drug policy. Despite hailing from Texas, a state known for its strictness in all aspects of the legal system, during office he managed to expand drug courts and even closed a state prison.
In fact, three years ago, he was awarded the National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ Governor of the Year award.
In 2014, Perry told Jimmy Kimmel that he supported marijuana decriminalization and that Texas was moving forward in that direction. Unfortunately, if he ends up heading the Department of Energy, he is not likely to have much influence over national drug policy.
Department of Health & Human Services: Rep. Tom Price
Enter Tom Price from Georgia. He is a former orthopedic surgeon, aimed to head an extensive department that manages other huge organizations include Medicare, the Federal Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Price is appears to be very anti-marijuana, having many times voted against amendments aimed to prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana legislation.
John Hudak, Brookings Institution stated the following in an email to TheWashington Post:
“Price has a long voting record of opposing the marijuana policy reforms that have come to a vote in the House of Representatives.”
If Price heads of the HHS, he would poised to counteract medical marijuana laws, and possibly go after doctors who prescribe it because it’s not FDA-approved.
“An anti-marijuana battle for hearts and minds could once again be part of the official position of the U.S. government.”
Department of Homeland Security: Gen. John F. Kelly
John Kelly is a former head of the U.S. Southern Command. During the Obama administration, he’s been vocal about his opposition to marijuana legalization, and has referred to it as a gateway drug.
In 2014, he contended that the Defense Department needed more funding to battle the drug war, and that marijuana legalization would hurt foreign relations in South and Central America.
Despite this, he seems more open to the idea of medical marijuana. He told the Military Times last year:
“I’m not a doctor but I’m told it has a medical use. So whether it’s veterans or anyone else, if it helps those people, then fine. Medicine is medicine.”
It’s tough to say right now where drug policy reform (if any) is going to go. Personally, I believe states are going to continue to move forward in the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use. Federal interference in state laws, if it occurs, is going to make a lot of people really angry.
As far as the problem of mass incarceration and unfair sentencing, I would expect that address of this issue will simply stagnate. And as much as this administration claims to be aimed at reversing trends, I think it’s going to be an uphill battle. That said, I don’t expect much more progress in drug policy reform, either.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psycholy