There was a time when the United States and most of the world criminalized marijuana use, prison sentences, and the commercial production and selling of cannabis. It was a time when the opinions of the United States Surgeon General said marijuana was a dangerous drug with no medical use. These days, there is a push to decriminalize cannabis in the United States. The change is driven by a growing number of people who are in favor of legalizing marijuana.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the only federal agency with the authority to research and fund cannabis research, has announced that it will begin funding research into the potential benefits of cannabis, which includes the potential to fight the effects of substance abuse and addiction.
The Surgeon General has released a new report stating that “current approaches to cannabis are not working”, and that “The most effective public health response requires a comprehensive approach, including policies to discourage use, a commitment to prevent drug use, and increased investments in public health research on how to effectively reduce the harms of drug use.” The report also calls for better access to treatment for people who need it, and that “We need to treat drug use as a public health problem instead of a criminal justice problem.”. Read more about decriminalized vs legal and let us know what you think.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, is coming out once again in support of decriminalized cannabis. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the US Surgeon General, talked with CNN on July 18 about the epidemic, health misinformation, and a short question regarding cannabis.
“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed legislation this week to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level,” Murthy was asked during the interview. Do you agree with this from a health standpoint?”
Although he didn’t explicitly support recreational cannabis, he did state that scientific proof is the only way to progress—and that it will only benefit people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs.
“When it comes to marijuana, I think we have to let science guide us,” he said in response to the question. “We know that science tells us that there are some medical benefits to marijuana, 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.”
“When it comes to decriminalization, I don’t believe that locking people up for marijuana usage is beneficial to individuals or society. That doesn’t seem to benefit anyone.”
The Surgeon General Expresses His Opinion
He also expressed his expectation that, as Surgeon General, he would be able to positively direct data from future scientific discoveries and study. “But I do think that in terms of our approach to marijuana, I worry when we don’t let science guide our process and policymaking, and that’s my role as surgeon general, to work with policymakers who work with members of the community and the general public to help people understand what science tells us and where [there are] gaps, and to help fill those gaps with research and honest inquiry.”
Murthy has a history in his position as Surgeon General of the United States, having previously served for nearly two and a half years in the Obama Administration. After serving on President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board between November 2020 and January 2021, he was requested to leave by previous President Donald Trump in 2017, but he returned to the post in March 2021 under the Biden administration.
Murthy has made a few notable comments on legalization and potency throughout the years, while not being a loud advocate of cannabis. He told CBS This Morning in 2015 that cannabis had promise.
In his interview, he said, “We have some early evidence indicating that marijuana may be beneficial for some medical illnesses and symptoms.” In 2018, he expressed a new position, stating that he is “concerned about how quickly states have legalized marijuana” due to its “unknown” consequences.
Support from the Surgeon General
Nonetheless, in contrast to previous comments by surgeon generals, Murthy’s forceful declaration represents a significant change in support of cannabis. A statement from the United States Surgeon General in 1982, for example, had a completely different position on the issue almost 30 years ago.
“In the United States, marijuana usage is a significant public health issue. Its usage has grown 30-fold in the last 20 years, with more over a quarter of the American population using it.” The statement also claimed that marijuana has a variety of “chronic consequences” that the general population should be aware of, such as “slowness of learning” and “impaired immunological response.”
If measures like Schumer’s newly proposed legislation make it to Biden’s desk, it will be up to him to sign off on federal decriminalization and recreational legalization. When Biden was running in August 2020, he advocated for decriminalization and reform. President Biden received a letter from 37 lawmakers in February 2021 urging him to pardon nonviolent prisoners convicted of cannabis offenses.
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