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Trump Stance on Cannabis: In A Haze Part 2 - The Heritage Foundation

When it comes to the stance the Trump administration is expected to take on marijuana enforcement, the outlook remains in a haze. But just because there are no straightforward answers doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of speculations, interpretations, and inferences based on what’s been said, and by whom.

We conducted our own examination to help uncover what actions may be expected by the Trump administration down the road.

  • Part one of our rundown touched on comments made by key players within the Trump administration.

  • Today, we look at attempted influence peddling by the Heritage Foundation and examine its motivations for doing so.

The Heritage Foundation Hype

All the uncertainty swirling about the Trump administration’s enforcement of federal marijuana laws prompted another voice to enter the mix. The Heritage Foundation, known for influencing presidential picks and policy, publishes its news and views on The Daily Signal…and it has strong views on which way the legalized marijuana cloud should blow. Its recent brief grabbed White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s comments of February 23rd and ran with them – all the way to the finish line, then beyond – with suggestions on how Trump’s DOJ can start enforcing federal marijuana laws.

The 11-point proposed plan recommends going after everything from businesses that sell cannabis, to banks that service those businesses, to companies financing those businesses. What’s most striking about the suggestions is not necessarily their content, but the apparent hypocrisy being exhibited by the Heritage Foundation in its anti-marijuana views.

That’s because the Heritage Foundation proudly proclaims it works to advance the conservative principles of

  • free enterprise,

  • limited government, and

  • individual freedom,

none of which are on display in its draconian anti-cannabis stance. In fact, its stance seems to be in direct opposition to the conventions it so proudly purports to uphold.

So what gives?

The Coors family, that’s what. Joseph Coors helped establish the Heritage Foundation in 1972, and the family still plays a leading role in the organization. No doubt the the Colorado-based company is aware of how legalized recreational marijuana has hurt beer sales. Furthermore, the foundation just so happens to have major pharma and pharma industry group contributors, both of which are behind lobbying efforts to re-criminalize recreational and medical marijuana due to substantially reduced prescription doses of some of their key products, including opioids, on a per-doctor basis in markets with legalized medical marijuana (see below).

In a bid to support its views, the Heritage Foundation tried to build an airtight case against cannabis, yet the case was full of holes. The turnaround on its conservative stance was one hole. Its need to jump through ideological hoops to justify going against states' rights and current published medical thinking was another.

And enough holes to make a butterfly net were torn in the fabric of its argument with the citing of outdated, biased studies in its brief to the president. The Foundation references annual reports from the Colorado Department of Public Safety, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), all of which rely on old data, predating legalization by some years.

This last issue - outdated information - is yet another deviation from Heritage’s own mission statement:

  • “Provide timely, accurate research on key policy issues.”

The Bottom Line

Through all the smoke and mirrors, the bottom line is the president did not once cannabis by name, either medicinally or recreationally, in his joint session address. And his references to taking down cartels – entirely desirable regardless of political affiliation – are references to ending “illegal” drug activity, so would seem not to apply to production and/or sales in jurisdictions with legalized cannabis.

The only certainty is the uncertainty that continues to cloud the Trump administration’s stance on cannabis. Yet that has been enough to keep many investors and professionals out of the space.

While this may initially seem like a detriment, it can actually be viewed as a positive for investors who now face less competition for places to allocate capital.

And those cannabis industry companies looking for senior executives can still find it with dedicated, committed cannabis industry executive search firms that refuse to be scared off by outdated data, biased speculations and the haze that continues to surround the Trump administration's stance.


Dan Ogden is a 20+ year veteran of the executive search industry, having covered operations, regulatory and consulting verticals within capital markets as well as data science, data analytics and, more recently, the cannabis industry within search firm and internal corporate HR leadership roles. Dan is Principal of the practice at Delta 9, the Western Hemisphere's' only dedicated cannabis industry executive search firm. To find out how Delta 9's proprietary, trademarked end-to-end recruiting methodology can help you find the key executives to make your company thrive and grow in the cannabis industry, shoot us an email, or give us a ring at 212.390.8190.


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