The Feds Are Behind On Medical Cannabis

Photo Credit: Rappler

For the Trump Administration, there is the familiar refrain of “fake news” they use as an attempt at denigrating and even delegitimizing journalism that is critical of the administration.

“What,” you might ask, “does this have to do with medical marijuana?”

I was drawn to a story that broke late last week in Ohio where U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said “There really is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

He’s wrong about that. It’s factually incorrect.

It is – and heaven help me as I write it – fake news.

The vast majority of states have approved cannabis for medical use.

For Ellen Smith of Rhode Island and other advocates of medical cannabis who have been working hard to expand the use of medical cannabis for treatment of chronic pain, PTSD, and a number of other illnesses the comments of Secretary Azar are just wrong and pig-headed.

“Someone needs to wake up and get educated. I sure would love to be able to meet him in person and share all the changes we have observed in the improvement of lives turning to cannabis,” Smith said. “To be honest, he sounds really out of touch with a statement like that when you understand all the changes, through state laws, that have happened across the country.  Shame on him!”

It should be pointed out that Azar was President of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Company, a major pharmaceutical drug company, and was a member of the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a pharmaceutical lobby.

No conflict there.

But I digress.

He went on to say in the Ohio interview, “There is no FDA-approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that.”

He’s right about that.

And that’s the problem.

The states are just so far ahead of the federal government on this issue that you wonder what will happen next.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has gone as far as to ask Congress to turn down a funding rider that prohibits the Justice Department from taking action against states who allow medical marijuana.

A vote is expected later this month.

People would be stunned if Congress goes along with the Attorney General.

But Congress can and should do much more.

What is holding back research – and I mean real research on the efficacy of medical marijuana on chronic pain (among other diseases and conditions) is the fact the federal government won’t deregulate cannabis.

It keeps marijuana as a schedule one drug because the DEA says it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

For the probably millions of pain patients who use medical cannabis to address their pain, this is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

But the truth is more study is needed in the U.S. (elsewhere, notably Canada and Israel, studies are available)

Here’s an idea.

Instead of fighting what the American people want, (voters are approving recreational use of marijuana) and acting like Luddites who fear the future, our federal officials who have been obstructionists can become partners and study this issue.

Sounds reasonable.

It’s why it won’t happen—at least any time soon.