by Colleen Curry
Rosenberg told reporters in a briefing Wednesday that medicinal marijuana has “never been shown to be safe or effective,” echoing the DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment Summary.
The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration called the idea of medical marijuana a “joke” on Wednesday and said that smoking marijuana for medicinal use has never been proven to be safe or effective.
Chuck Rosenberg, who was appointed to lead the agency in May, made the comments at a press briefing, according to CBS News.
He was swiftly criticized by advocates who argue that millions of patients use marijuana to help ease the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, chemotherapy, and seizures, among other afflictions, and that the reason there isn’t more research showing it’s effectiveness is because of the DEA’s tight control over what the agency classifies as a Schedule 1 substance.
Scientists interested in doing medical marijuana research have to get approval from the DEA to use the drug and then obtain only approved samples of the drug for research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Although President Barack Obama removed one barrier to that approval process earlier this year, cutting out an extra layer of approval known as the Public Health Safety Review, the administration is still opposed to legalizing medical marijuana pending further studies.
“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.”
Rosenberg did distinguish between the compounds in marijuana like HTC that might offer medical benefits and smoking the leaf of the marijuana plant, which he said was not beneficial.
Eighty percent of US states now have laws allowing some type of medical marijuana use for patients, though some only allow the chemicals derived from the plants, rather than the plant itself, to be smoked.
Morgan Fox, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, called Rosenberg’s comments “inappropriate.”
“We have 23 states as well as Washington, DC and Guam that allow for use of medical marijuana and millions of patients that find it effective. There are doctors in those states willing to recommend it and say it is in fact medicine,” Fox said.
Christopher Brown, a medical marijuana advocate formerly with the group Americans for Safe Access, said he wasn’t surprised by Rosenberg’s comments.
“This is what we expect from the DEA. They’re very out of line with other government organizations,” he said.