US Surgeon General Acknowledges “Marijuana Can Be Helpful”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 4, 2015

    US Surgeon General: Marijuana Can Be HelpfulNewly appointed US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes that cannabis possesses therapeutic utility — an acknowledgment that contradicts the plant’s present placement as a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

    Speaking to CBS News, Murthy said: “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful.” He added, “I think we have to use that data to drive policy making and I’m very interested to see where that data takes us.”

    Dr. Murthy was confirmed as US Surgeon General late last year.

    His statements appear to be inconsistent with the Schedule I classification of marijuana under federal law — a scheduling that defines the plant and its organic compounds as possessing “no currently accepted medical use …. in the United States” and lacking “accepted safety … under medical supervision.”

    Next week in Sacramento, a federal judge will hear final arguments in a motion challenging the constitutionality of cannabis’ Schedule I classification. In October, defense counsel and experts presented evidence over a five day period arguing that the scientific literature is not supportive of the plant’s present categorization.

    Briefs in this ongoing federal case are available online here.

    [Update: Perhaps predictably, the Surgeon General has dialed back his initial comments to CBS News. Late last night, The Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement attributed to Murthy stating: “Marijuana policy — and all public health policies — should be driven by science. I believe that marijuana should be subjected to the same, rigorous clinical trials and scientific scrutiny that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applies to all new medications. The Federal Government has and continues to fund research on possible health benefits of marijuana and its components. While clinical trials for certain components of marijuana appear promising for some medical conditions, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the standards for safe and effective medicine for any condition to date.”

    Interesting that Dr. Murthy cites the IOM which hasn’t formally commented on the issue of medical marijuana since releasing its report some 15 years ago, long before the results of FDA-approved clinical trials like this had been completed. Also notable that he leans on the FDA for guidance when the agency largely does not review the safety and efficacy of botanical products.]

    48 responses to “US Surgeon General Acknowledges “Marijuana Can Be Helpful””

    1. mexweed says:

      “no currently accepted medical use …. in the United States”– could PREVENTIVE use (like legalized cannabis preventing 800,000 more young Americans from getting hooked on nicotine $igarettes next year, thus preventing “smoking-related illnesses”) be considered a medical use?

    2. Holly B Steckowski says:

      I support the legalization. Before I was put on probation for marijuana use I used it to help my back pain, anxiety, and ocd just to name a few. Now it feels like my problems have been multiplied by 10.

    3. Julian says:

      Clearly, President Obama is preparing for the inevitable verdict in this case to allow him to make an executive decision to deschedule marijuana. As Mr. Armentano has pointed out, the verdict will probably not be read on the day of the hearing next week, especially with Judge Mueller allowing such an unusually large amount of testimony and briefs from the defense. The suspense is awesome.

      I am extremely proud to support NORML knowing that our Deputy Director was the one who wrote the majority of the scientific evidence prepared for this defense. Whatever the verdict, Paul, America is in debt to your wisdom and service; And to Judge Mueller as well for taking a very brave and surprising decision to hear the evidence presented; No other Federal Judge has ever taken on the constitutionality of the scheduling of marijuana like this since the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 was signed by President Nixon.

      The endorsement of the U.S. Surgeon General is just icing on the Medible Cake. The ONDCP must be preparing their affirmative defense by now; “We only did what the law told us! Honest!” Accept that this case reveals that the ENTIRE C.S.Act is unconstitutional, much less the scheduling of marijuana. This case, along with a long list of executive orders and guidelines by President Obama relaxing U.S. drug and prison policy is the light at the end of the tunnel for plenty of Americans unjustly incarcerated for marijuana possession or consumption. Since Congress won’t do their job, it appears as if the Supreme Court and the President are going to have to decide what to do with all the wrongfully imprisoned people in private prisons across the country.

      Time to close some private prisons and open some public schools.

      With a Federal Judge’s decision that the scheduling of marijuana is unconstitutional, and the President surrounded by a cooperative cabinet, a supportive voting public and a growing number of Congressman it is about time that marijuana legalization became an election issue for this Republican Congress.
      Even my Congressman, Lamar Smith, isn’t responding with his usual drug-war rhetoric anymore; Most of the time I get a response stating that “Marijuana is a dangerous drug, and I support the DEA and law enforcement and blah, blah blah.” Now I’m getting the “I appreciate your concerns and will keep your thoughts in mind,” card, you know, when Congressman realize their position is indefensible but need to put SOME kind of statement out. Prohibitionists must be watching this case with the kind of stupid face that the Wizard of Oz had when the curtain gets lifted and the gig is up.

      “Hey, DEA Director Michelle Leonhart! We KNOW you’re LYING! We can SEE you STEALING our TAX dollars!!” Heeeeeere’s your law suit…

    4. cary says:

      I believe I should be used as medicine

    5. alex says:

      Finally some science is finding its way into the discussion the Feds should have been having several decades ago

    6. phrtao says:

      Surely this must be the end of prohibition – they will not be able to ‘find’ new evidence to turn things back now.

      I agree with Holly B Steckowski though. I nearly lost custody of my son and my house due to an incident with a medical using family member and our cannabis (it was only the willingness of a sympathetic paramedic who looked the other way that saved us !!). So be careful, please – it’s not legal yet and the wounded beast of prohibition is at it’s worst now more than ever.

    7. Brandon says:

      So what if the classification is found unconstitutional under federal law in the hearing? What happens to all of those prosecuted and have had their lives destroyed under the potential unconstitutional classification?

    8. Todd says:

      Prohibition at least gave us a good look at parallel universes, one where “inconsistent” means “fix it” and another where nothing gets fixed because no one remembers how or why. These two worlds finally meet at a corner though, that being where there is no more room. No more room to lie about weed. In fact, a doctor takes an oath to help people, an oath is a promise, and promises only apply in the real world!

    9. Ben says:

      cary says:
      February 5, 2015 at 5:57 am

      I believe I should be used as medicine

      It does have many health benefits, yes…

      But, would you have relegated alcohol to medicine only?

      Examine your perceptions.

      If I read you correctly,
      the void you left in only delineating it for medical, removes the myriad of other realms…

    10. RUT says:

      Every day the dishonest class 1 substance classification remains more of our beloved citizens are criminalized and have their lives and their own potential harmed. This is a propaganda war to continue profiting off the people that they are sworn to serve. Laws made based on propaganda and non scientific facts are a crime against the public. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s cannibis oils were found in pharmacies all over America until being banned. Our great politicians could have found references to this in any library when they were passing the scheduling law. Instead they kept their heads in the sand and went along with playing the ignorant protectors that they were claiming to be. When politicians get into science it is a train wreck of incompetence. Let us hope our new surgeon general can make things right.