Rep. Tom Price, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has a documented history of voting against cannabis reform.
In a vote that was cast in the wee hours this morning, Rep. Tom Price was confirmed as the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Like other recent cabinet nominees for the Trump Administration, resistance from senate Democrats was high. Price was confirmed by a vote that broke almost exactly along party lines (52-47).
The path to Price’s confirmation included a fair amount of drama. Price’s past investments seem to present a conflict of interest. He has been accused of using insider knowledge from Congress to purchase stock. He has also invested in health care companies that could benefit from legislation he introduced.
For cannabis advocates, there may be even more to worry about. Price’s voting record indicates that he is strongly against cannabis reform. According to the Washington Post, Price’s record includes:
- Going against a measure that would prevent the Justice Department from interfering with state recreational marijuana laws.
- Voting six times against amendments preventing the Justice Department from interfering with state medical marijuana laws.
- Voting three times against a measure that would allow Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana to veterans who might benefit from it.
Although the U.S. Attorney General has more direct influence on whether or not the justice department targets cannabis companies, the HHS secretary can disrupt the industry in several ways. Physicians prescribing medical cannabis and dispensaries can face federal lawsuits and penalties from HHS.
This marks the second anti-cannabis crusader to be confirmed this week in the Trump cabinet. The industry was already concerned about Jeff Sessions becoming Attorney General. Sessions did at least try to signal a moderate approach to cannabis law at his confirmation hearing. Price’s intention going forward remains a mystery, as he was not asked about cannabis at his hearings, nor has he issued any other public statements on the issue.