U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy stated on Wednesday during an interview with “CBS This Morning” that not only is medical marijuana effective for some medical conditions, but its effectiveness means that a switch in federal drug policy may be on the horizon.
According to Murthy, medical marijuana has significant policy implications, one of which is additional pressure to reclassify marijuana and remove its status as a Schedule 1 drug, since the Schedule 1 category is normally reserved for drugs without any medical value, Marijuana.com reports.
“We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful,” Murthy stated. “I think that we have to use that data to drive policymaking.”
Murthy, a 37-year-old graduate from Yale University Medical School, was recently confirmed by the Senate as the 19th surgeon general of the United States by a 51-43 vote in December 2014. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Murthy told the panel that he didn’t recommend marijuana.
“I don’t think it’s a good habit to use marijuana. If I had kids, I would tell them not to use it,” Murthy stated, also remarking that more research needs to be done before final conclusions.
But his tune changed on Wednesday morning, following the Obama administration’s trend of a friendlier approach to marijuana. In a recent interview, President Obama predicted that more states will continue to legalize the drug and stated that the Department of Justice isn’t interested in wasting enforcement resources to crack down on the still illegal substance. (RELATED: Obama Makes A Big Prediction: More States Will Join Colorado And Legalize Marijuana)
The recent White House budget unveiled Monday also showed sympathy for legal marijuana in D.C., and a slight change to the wording in section 809 entails that although no federal funds can be used to implement a city-wide framework for taxing and regulating marijuana, there’s no reason why the city can’t use local funds. (RELATED: White House Sneaks D.C. Marijuana Legalization Into Obama’s Budget)
“Dr. Murthy’s comments add to a growing consensus in the medical community that marijuana can help people suffering from painful conditions,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s crazy that federal law still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, a category that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value. In light of these comments from his top medical adviser, the president should direct the attorney general to immediately begin the process of rescheduling marijuana.”
This isn’t the first time that a surgeon general has been sympathetic to marijuana. During the Clinton administration, surgeon general Jocelyn Elders argued that the U.S. should push for legalization, but in 1993, few were ready for such a proposal, and there was little to no political will from which to draw. Since then, Elders has actively supported medical marijuana laws across the U.S.
It’s unclear what effect Murthy’s remarks will have, but they may signal that the Obama administration is considering moving the Schedule 1 reclassification process forward through the attorney general.
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