The nation’s top doctor says that marijuana has medical benefits for some patients.
In a Wednesday appearance on “CBS This Morning,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, surgeon general of the United States, 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 added.
Calling the debate about marijuana an “interesting story that’s unfolding in our country right now,” Murthy said “we have to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana, and I think were gonna get a lot more data on that” as more states change their laws.
But for now, the surgeon general’s comments that cannabis does indeed have benefits for some patients is likely to add fuel to the debate about the drug’s status under federal law as a Schedule I controlled substance. That category is supposed to be reserved only for drugs that have no accepted medical value.
Murthy isn’t the first surgeon general to wade into the debate about marijuana and drug policy. In 1993, Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general under the Clinton administration, said the U.S. should seriously consider legalizing drugs. “I do feel we’d markedly reduce our crime rate if drugs were legalized,” she said at the time. Since leaving office, Elders has actively campaigned for states to pass medical marijuana laws.
Another doctor that President Obama considered nominating to be surgeon general, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, has strongly endorsed medical marijuana. After it was leaked that the White House was likely to nominate him, Gupta took himself out of consideration for the position, saying he didn’t want to give up being a practicing neurosurgeon.
Murthy’s comments, which add to a growing consensus in the medical community that marijuana has benefits, could increase pressure on the attorney general to initiate the process of reclassifying the drug under federal law.