Former anti-cannabis congressman and Trump health official merge with cannabis company board

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Documents that were recently obtained by Marijuana Moment confirm that a former head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has joined the board of directors for a medical cannabis business in Georgia. 

Tom Price is now serving as a board member of Botanical Sciences, LLC, which is one of six cannabis companies that bagged a license under Georgia’s medical cannabis program in July. Prior to joining Botanical’s board, Price was renowned for being an anti-cannabis lobbyist.

Price’s affiliation with the cannabis company board emerges following his role as HHS secretary under President Donald Trump. The new board member maintained his role under Trump for seven month, but was forced to resign after allegedly racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses.

Congressman opposed against cannabis reform on numerous occasions

Last year, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment to shield state medical cannabis programs from federal interference by the Department of Justice (DOJ). However, Price wasn’t keen on the idea. 

In fact, the congressman voted six times in opposition of appropriations bill amendments to enact the protections; which, in spite of his objection, were eventually adopted as part of federal spending law.

He also attempted to overthrow a handful of other appropriations measures that would have enabled the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to provide military veteran patients with medical cannabis recommendations.

Conversely, Price did vote for more progressive measures that protected limited CBD state laws from federal intervention, as well as to defend state industrial hemp programs.

Advocates are displeased with congressman’s board of directors role

Numerous cannabis advocates have responded to Price’s inclusion on Botanical Science’s board of directors, with many commenting on the fact that he has tirelessly fought against increasing patient access to cannabis. Because of this, lobbyists argue, Price shouldn’t be given the opportunity to benefit from the legal weed market.

Lobbyists also expressed their anger when Acreage Holdings welcomed former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to their board. During his time in office, Boehner strongly opposed cannabis legalization. 

It’s not just advocates who are upset about Price’s new position. Sponsor of the legislation that established Georgia’s medical cannabis program, former state Rep. Allen Peake, recently spoke out about the situation during an interview with reporters from Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“To have a guy who fought so diligently against everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish here in Georgia and then receive a license, it was a tough pill to swallow,” said Peake, whose license application was rejected. “It’s the height of hypocrisy.”

News of Price joining the board of Botanical Sciences comes hot on the heels of a report stating that President Joe Biden’s candidate for director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) consulted for a cannabis business in 2020.

Rahul Gupta, who has been chosen to run ONDCP, worked as a consultant to multi-state cannabis operator Holistic Industrie for nine months last year.