An off-handed comment by the acting chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration about the medicinal value of marijuana is in the news.
Chuck Rosenberg called the medicinal value of marijuana a “joke” in a briefing with reporters.
A group called Marijuana Majority has started an online petition to get Rosenberg fired.
Here’s what administrator Chuck Rosenberg said about medical marijuana, via CBS News and the Washington Post:
“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,” Rosenberg said in a briefing to reporters. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”
“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise” medicinally, he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
The Administration considers marijuana a “Schedule 1” controlled substance, which among other things means it has “no currently accepted medical use.” Most researchers reject this claim, however, with organizations including Brookings Institution, the American Medical Association, and the ACLU arguing that the current designation is inappropriate.
Numerous chronic pain physicians and advocates have argued that testing the efficacy of marijuana in treating chronic pain is long overdue, and yet, because of the Schedule 1 designation and resistance by the federal government, no serious clinical trials have been conducted in thtesting mare United States.
There’s no such resistance in Canada, where studies have been underway.
They are finding that medical cannabis appears to be reasonably safe as well as effective in helping to relieve chronic pain — at least in patients who have previously used the drug, a study has found.
The benchmark study, conducted at seven pain-management clinics across Canada, found that patients who used medical marijuana to treat chronic pain had a similar level of serious side-effects as those not using the herb.
Principal investigator Dr. Mark Ware, a pain specialist at the McGill University Health Centre, said researchers found no difference in the rates of serious pot-related adverse events — including the need for hospitalization or death — between the two groups during a year of monitoring patients.
What makes the controversy in the U.S. so vexing is that at least 23 states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana for medical use. While residents of those states can use marijuana to treat their medical conditions, including notably chronic pain, the federal government doesn’t see fit to demand, urge or even allow clinical tests.
It’s a curious situation made worse by DEA Chief Rosenberg’s comments.