In the midst of a trade war that’s ensnared our northern neighbor, the Trump administration has granted a Canadian company the ability to do something American marijuana growers are forbidden from doing: Provide marijuana for American researchers to test with the government’s approval. The move has domestic marijuana advocates and growers up in arms, but it’s also riled and perplexed a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill who either view the Trump administration’s move as hypocritical or unpatriotic — or both.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) tells Rolling Stone. “I think they’ve got this huge mental block about doing anything that’s good policy around marijuana.”
Just last week, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed historic legislation to force anti-pot Attorney General Jeff Sessions to approve at least two of more than two dozen pending license applications from American growers, because currently only the University of Mississippi is licensed to grow marijuana by the federal government.
Still, the new deal that was approved by the Drug Enforcement Agency with cannabis firm Tilray Inc. will allow the Canadian company to provide the University of California San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research with capsules that contain CBD and THC, even as Canadians involved in the marijuana industry could be barred from ever legally entering America again. But marijuana advocates say this first of its kind agreement opens the door for other domestic research institutions to access Canadian or other foreign grown marijuana. The confluence of all these things is angering lawmakers.
“It’s just so hypocritical,” Pingree laments. “It’s yet another symbol of how chaotic and disorganized and hypocritical this administration is. You know, they say ‘buy American’ and we’re having a trade war with Canada and then they just go and spend American money on a Canadian product – agricultural product no less.”
Even some of the president’s Tea Party backed allies in Congress are frustrated by how this move undercuts the president’s own campaign promise to focus on American workers.
“Well, it’s certainly not America First,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a staunch and vocal Trump-supporter, tells Rolling Stone.
As the news of the deal hit the markets, Tilray Inc.’s stock initially flew up by 8 percent. But the marijuana industry is so new — Canada’s legal regulatory system doesn’t even officially kick off until mid-October — that the industry’s stocks are truly unchartered territory. That played into the company undergoing a crazy day — where trading was actually halted five times — before ultimately ending the day down. Still, the spotlight the U.S. government deal put on the Canadian company wasn’t lost on Gaetz, and he says it goes beyond one wild trading day.
“The current dream of most U.S. investable cannabis businesses is to go public in Canada, because they can’t go public in the United States, so our stupid policies are literally creating wealth in the Canadian markets” Gaetz says.
The Florida Republican has long been a vocal proponent of normalizing the nation’s mismatched federal marijuana policy, which remains at odds with the legalization of either medicinal or recreational marijuana. That’s why Gaetz bemoans this latest episode that he says highlights the stupidity of the current system.
“Yeah, consistency appears to be the hobgoblin of small minds,” Gaetz laments. “These are all the fruits of our contradictory policies in this country on cannabis. No one’s really legal or illegal anymore — it’s all a grey area because so many of the laws now contradict.”
Still, even a Democratic lawmaker was able to find a silver lining in this latest kerfuffle.
“So I guess on one hand I’m pleased that they’re even allowing further testing,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tells Rolling Stone. “But on the other hand, I think this just illustrates how backwards our marijuana policy is in America and how limited, you know, the supply is for scientists to study the medicinal benefits of marijuana.”
With the attorney general staunchly opposed to marijuana and the president himself repeatedly saying he supports state’s rights to choose their own pot policies, the California congressman says this further highlights the ineptitude of this administration.
“The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Swalwell adds. “You also have agency heads who are in conflict with what I think the president actually believes on this issue. He should just free the states to do this on their own and get the federal government out of the way.”
Correction: This article previously stated that the research was being done by the University of San Diego; it is being done by the University of California San Diego.