Michael Bennet "Deeply Concerned" About White House Anti-Pot Committee

United States Senator Michael Bennet.EXPAND
United States Senator Michael Bennet.
Brandon Marshall
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Several Colorado politicians expressed concerns after reading an August 29 BuzzFeed report detailing how the White House was in the early stages of organizing a committee of federal agencies to "combat public support for marijuana." Congressmen Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter quickly attacked any potential misinformation campaign, as did state representative Jonathan Singer.

Now you can add another Democrat to the list of concerned elected officials: Senator Michael Bennet.

Bennet just sent a public letter to James Carroll, acting director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is reportedly heading the Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee created earlier this summer. According to BuzzFeed, White House staffers have been sending memos and emails instructing fourteen federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana to the new committee.

"By cherry-picking data to support pre-ordained and misinformed conclusions on marijuana, the Trump administration has further eroded any credibility it had on this issue," Bennet writes in his letter to Carroll. “I am deeply concerned by this intentional effort to mislead the American people. At a time when we should be investing in objective and peer-reviewed scientific research on marijuana and the effects of legalization, the White House is instead using taxpayer money to spread a politically driven narrative."

Although the BuzzFeed article focuses on an unclassified summary of the project, which notes that info about the project is "predecisional and requires a close hold," other documents show a committee intent on pushing a one-sided picture filled with negative data.

“The prevailing marijuana narrative in the U.S. is partial, one-sided, and inaccurate,” reads the summary of a July 27 meeting that included representatives from the White House and nine federal agencies, according to BuzzFeed. A follow-up memo adds that “departments should provide...the most significant data demonstrating negative trends, with a statement describing the implications of such trends.”

Lately, though, much of the news about marijuana has reflected positive trends. For example, marijuana use among Colorado high school students was slightly less than the national average and below the rate of those who smoked pot before the state legalized pot consumption for adults in 2012, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

In a joint response to Westword's request for comment about the BuzzFeed report, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division and Governor John Hickenlooper's Office say they weren't aware of any new White House committee, but add that Colorado will "continue to proactively engage with our federal partners."

And they note that legalized marijuana hasn't created a nightmare for the state, pointing to law enforcement grant programs funded by pot-industry revenue that crack down on gray- and black-market marijuana operations.

"Our worst fears have not materialized. That said, we prioritize keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and criminal enterprises, preventing public health consequences associated with marijuana use, and preventing diversion to the illicit market," their response reads. "As we continue to track the impact of legalized medical and adult-use marijuana, we will prioritize resources in a manner that works to prevent and mitigate any unintended consequences."

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