U.S. Surgeon General Says 'Marijuana Can Be Helpful'

February 4, 2015 - By Jag Davies

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has joined the growing chorus of top medical professionals and organizations in favor of reforming marijuana laws to allow access for medical purposes.

On today’s CBS This Morning Murthy said, “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful. I think that we have to use that data to drive policymaking.”

He said it’s an “interesting story that’s unfolding in our country right now,” and that “we have to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana, and I think we’re going to get a lot more data on that” as more states pass laws to allow access to medical marijuana.

Twenty-three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the use and production of medical marijuana for qualifying patients under state law. However, the medical use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and patients in the remaining states are without any legal access at all.  Even in states where medical marijuana laws exist, patients and providers are vulnerable to arrest and interference from federal law enforcement.  Marijuana prohibition has also thwarted research within the U.S. to uncover the best and most effective uses for marijuana as a medicine, making efforts to reform medical marijuana laws particularly difficult.

As far back as 1993, Bill Clinton’s Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders – who now sits on the Drug Policy Alliance Honorary Board – spoke out about the potential benefits of drug legalization when she said, “I do feel we’d markedly reduce our crime rate if drugs were legalized.”

More and more stakeholders responsible for public health are rethinking their support for marijuana prohibition.  Last week, two major health organizations released updated policies on marijuana, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) both re-examined the status quo and determined that there is a better way.

CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta – who President Obama had initially tried to nominate for Surgeon General – has spoken out forcefully in favor of medical marijuana over the past two years.

Murthy’s comments will only add to the growing momentum to increase the number of states with medical marijuana laws, support and improve existing state medical marijuana programs, protect medical marijuana patients, and to end the federal ban on medical marijuana so that all patients have safe access to quality medicine.

Jag Davies is the director of communications strategy at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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