Does the Surgeon General Support Cannabis?
The position of U.S. Surgeon General is considered to be a role in which Americans can look to for the best available scientific information ways to improve health, and reduce the risks of illness and injury. Currently, the Surgeon General is Dr. Vivek H. Murthy in a recurring role; he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March 2021. Some of Dr. Murthy’s initiatives include issuing the first Surgeons General’s report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health. Learn more about the current surgeon general’s view on smoking cannabis.
In a recent appearance on CNN, the current Surgeon General view on cannabis ties to the futility of incarceration for use. He said “when it comes to decriminalization, I don’t think that there is value to individuals or to society to lock people up for marijuana use. I don’t think that serves anybody well.” This statement was in response to a question regarding a newly drafted federal marijuana legalization bill. Dr. Murthy stopped short of endorsing full-scale commercial legalization of cannabis, however, his comments show support for the decriminalization of low-level possession.
The Current Surgeon General’s View on Smoking Cannabis
Murthy additional commented that “When it comes to marijuana, I think we have to let science guide us. And we know that the science tells us that there are some benefits to marijuana from a medical perspective but there are also some harms that we have to consider—and we have to put those together as we think about the right policy.” Although not a vocal supporter of cannabis in the past, Dr. Murthy has made some statements pertaining to legalization and potency. An example was in 2015, when he told CBS This Morning cannabis has possibilities: “We have some preliminary data showing that, for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful.”
As a reference to the magnitude of this perspective change, note in August 1982 the Surgeon General of the Public Health Service issued the following warning on marijuana: “Marijuana use is a major public health problem in the United States. In the past 20 years, its use has increased 30-fold; it is estimated that more than a quarter of the American population has used it.” The statement also included claims that the effects of marijuana included numerous “chronic effects” the general public should watch out for, including “slowness of learning”.
Agencies on Cannabis
Another Washington, D.C. power force who agrees with the Surgeon General on cannabis punishment being non-beneficial: the FBI. Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation updated its hiring policy to not exclude potential candidates who have used cannabis outside of a year, and candidates will not be disqualified for using cannabis prior to their 18th birthday. Cannabis within the workplace is still not permitted, and other kinds of drugs still have a ten-year abstinence requirement in the hiring process. The only other government agency to relax some rules regarding cannabis is the Department of Transportation.
Latest introduced legislation came about on July 14th via Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and fellow Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (OR) and Cory Booker (NJ) as the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. Highlights of the bill include descheduling cannabis, expunging cannabis-related criminal records, and establishment of social equity cannabis grant programs funded by a new federal cannabis tax. Individual states would be allowed to maintain cannabis prohibition, although they would not be permitted to criminalize the transport of cannabis across their borders so long as the shipment is moving between two legal markets.
An upcoming crucial vote is expected in the US House of Representatives on an amendment to protect legal cannabis states from federal interference. Known as the Blumenauer-McClintock-Norton-Lee amendment, after Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D), and Barbara Lee (D) (co-Chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus), Tom McClintock (R) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), it was approved by House lawmakers last Congress by a bipartisan vote of 267 to 165. This amendment is essential as members of Congress have annually passed spending bills since 2014 which have included a provision protecting those who engage in the state-sanctioned use and dispensing of medical cannabis from federal prosecution by the Department of Justice. The existing language now maintains federal funds cannot be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” This pending amendment removes the word “medical” from the current language — thereby extending these protections to both qualified patients and to adults, as well as to those licensed in the recreational industry.
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