United States Surgeon General Supports Study of Medical Cannabis
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 01/05/2018 in Research and Studies
Updated on December 6, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
With a conservative White House running the United States, you’d think we wouldn’t hear anything in favor of medical marijuana coming from a major federal official. But, it turns out not everybody in the Trump administration has a negative opinion of medicinal cannabis.
Surgeon General Gerome Adams recently stated the FDA should have the ability to study medical marijuana like any other drug. He mentioned his support in front of around 125 attendees of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, an event that hosts representatives from states all over the country.
But, American policy changes aren’t as simple as the Surgeon General approving new rules. Exactly how much influence does Adams have on drug policies? And, will this statement correct our country’s misconceptions about medical cannabis?
Does This Mean Adams Supports All Kinds of Marijuana Medicine?
While Adams affirmed his support for medical cannabis research, he made sure to clarify that he thought only some kinds of marijuana medicine should undergo research. His stance isn’t as simple as pro-marijuana or not.
For example, he stressed that he doesn’t promote smoking cannabis for medical purposes. The Surgeon General’s office has always discouraged smoking tobacco. Adams feels the same about the lung risks associated with smoking marijuana. Although medical marijuana has plenty of health benefits, smoking it can harm you, but not as much as tobacco. Adams was primarily concerned about the potential of increased lung cancer rates if more people began to smoke cannabis.
Adams focused on the components in medical marijuana and how we can use them like we would other pharmaceutical substances. He brought up that cannabis isn’t just one substance — instead, it’s more than 100 substances that all have different effects. While some substances provide benefits, others can cause harm. The Surgeon General was referring to cannabinoids, many of which have high potential as drug components.
In fact, he reminded the attendees that the FDA has approved CBD oil and a few other cannabis derivatives, setting the stage for more research. Rather than affirming medical marijuana in its plant form, he advocated for separating out cannabis derivatives.
How Could This Statement Impact United States Medical Marijuana?
Although the Surgeon General is nominated by the President and Senate, their position is mainly a ceremonial one. Instead of having much involvement in making policy, they provide health information to Americans. The Surgeon General aims to educate the public, not make or change regulations.
So, Adams’ statement doesn’t mean he’s planning to work toward changing any policies. While he can give his opinions, he can’t act on them, at least from a legal standpoint. However, he does oversee the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which consists of federal employees who advocate for healthy living. It’s possible that his opinion could influence how other federal employees choose to educate the public.
And we can’t underestimate Adams’ influence on the representatives who attended the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. His statement could swing the opinions of attendees who were previously undecided on medical marijuana legalization. But, since these representatives only oversee state government, they couldn’t change federal laws.
At the very least, Adams’ opinion could influence how American citizens view medical marijuana research. As an advocate for health education, some folks could change their minds about cannabis medicine in response to his stance.
However, this is all speculation. It’s difficult to tell exactly how much impact this statement will have, especially considering the Trump administration’s opinion of medicinal cannabis.
The Current Administration’s Take on Medicinal Cannabis
The Trump administration doesn’t have an explicit stance on medical marijuana, so its future under federal law remains unclear. While federal regulations outlawed marijuana during the Obama administration, they asserted that authorized patients wouldn’t face any federal punishment. But, Trump and his staff haven’t made such a statement, leaving medicinal cannabis patients in limbo.
Some indications don’t look good for the medical marijuana-positive crowd. Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has strict views on any form of cannabis. He has openly spoken against legalization, instead encouraging prohibition. An amendment passed in 2014 prohibited the federal government from spending money to dispute state medical marijuana programs. But, it’s possible that Trump and his administration could rewrite the bill.
Trump’s presidency has been an uncertain time for many Americans, and nobody knows whether he’ll crack down on marijuana or not. Keep an eye on our blog for news and updates related to medical marijuana in the United States.
The State of Medical Marijuana Research in the United States
Since marijuana is federally illegal, scientists have had a hard time conducting extensive and meaningful research on medicinal cannabis. While it’s not impossible to study medical marijuana, scientists must go through numerous barriers first. For example, they must obtain their cannabis from a single source at the University of Mississippi, which doesn’t provide the best quality marijuana. Once a team gets approval to use this marijuana, they still have a lot of other authorizations to go through.
But, that’s not to say no research happens in the United States at all. Adams himself mentioned FDA research on CBD oil and other marijuana derivatives. A federally approved drug called Epidiolex has CBD in it, and the FDA has previously approved studies involving the drug.
Who to Ask for Personalized Medical Marijuana Information
Now that we’ve talked about medical cannabis on a national scale, you may wonder about it in your personal situation. Everyone has different health problems and bodies, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to many questions about cannabis medicine.
A physician certified for medical marijuana treatment can look at your health issues and guide your decisions. If you already have a medical marijuana card, you can also stop by your local dispensary and talk with the staff about your medicine.