Dont listen to them! Smoke all the weed you want!
Don't listen to them! Smoke all the weed you want! BRAZZO / GETTY IMAGES

According to a new scoop from BuzzFeed by former Stranger staff writer news editor Dominic Holden, the Trump administration is coming for our weed. But instead of doing it directly—by, say, enforcing federal laws against cannabis—the big men in Washington are trying to convince the public that weed is dangerous instead.

From BuzzFeed:


The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat, according to interviews with agency staff and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The Marijuana Policy Coordination Committee, as it’s named in White House memos and emails, instructed 14 federal agencies and the Drug Enforcement Administration this month to submit “data demonstrating the most significant negative trends” about marijuana and the “threats” it poses to the country.

Federal agencies, according to documents uncovered by BuzzFeed, were instructed to come up with a 'story, relating an incident or picture, that illustrates one or more the key areas of concern related to use, production, and trafficking of marijuana.' In the Trump administration, it's not hard to see what that would look like. Trump is masterful at spinning stories out of bullshit, and if you soon start hearing about MS-13 murdering white teen girls over weed, look towards DC (or Mar-a-Lago).

This is hardly the first time the U.S. government has engaged in a public misinformation campaign about this plant. Cannabis extracts were sold as medicine until the early 20th century, but then, Harry J. Anslinger, a sort of 20th century Jeff Sessions who served as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, made criminalizing weed his personal agenda. Anslinger came up with a wealth of dubious evidence claiming that marijuana causes crime and violence, and the media was only too happy to spread this propaganda to the masses. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst was, in particular, complicit in Anslinger's plan, and ran stories like that of Victor Licata, a Florida man who killed his family, allegedly under the influence of weed. In Hearst papers, Vicata was called an "axe-murdering marijuana addict," as though the weed made him do it.

Anslinger, like Sessions, was also racist. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers,” he reportedly once said. “Their Satanic music, Jazz and Swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others." On another occasion, he reportedly said that “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” He really would have fit in in the Trump administration, although some speculate that Anslinger wasn't a true believer in the dangers of weed, he was a true believer in himself. In 1930, when Anslinger was appointed head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (by his wife's uncle, Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon) the agency was on the brink of shutting down. It had, until that point, been tasked with enforcing alcohol prohibition, but Prohibition was soon to be abolished. Anslinger wanted to save the department, his job, and his $100,000 budget. He needed a new target, and that was weed.

Regardless of the truth about cannabis (it won't make you violent; it will make you sleepy), Anslinger, the media, and the Feds were highly successful at not just criminalizing weed but demonizing it. Thanks to one man's quest to save his job, countless people have been imprisoned and lives upended—not because of the plant itself, but simply because of its legal status.

States (starting with this one) have been chipping away at cannabis prohibition and many in the industry are optimistic that federal legalization is years, not decades, away. Still, it seems from BuzzFeed's reporting that the Trump administration will do what it can to try to sour us on weed, despite the fact that it's safer than that bottle of bourbon sitting under your desk. Let's not let the feds demonize the old plant once again.