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“Marijuana can be helpful” says US Surgeon General

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez |

The United States’s youngest-ever surgeon general made waves today with a single word, telling morning news hosts on national television that medical marijuana can be “helpful.”

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also said new data on cannabis’ use should drive policymaking.

Some in the industry are already expressing hope this signals loosening restrictions on cannabis from the Justice Department.

Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning it has no medical value and has a high potential for abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. It seems the U.S. Public Health Service disagrees.

“We have some preliminary data showing for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful,” Murthy told CBS This Morning, in his first on-camera interview since taking office.

Murthy was on CBS to discuss vaccinations and the measles, but the CBS reporters, perhaps sensing a golden (or green?) opportunity, eventually shifted discussion to cannabis. They asked Murthy if he supported marijuana legalization.

At first, Murthy ducked the question, artfully directing his answer to generalize about marijuana’s recent legalization struggles. Then CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell interrupted him, saying, “We know all of that,” and demanding to hear his position.

“My position is we have to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana. I think we’re going to get a lot more data on that,” Murthy replied.

That’s when he voiced support for cannabis’ healing effects. “We have some preliminary data showing for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful.”

Tom Angell, chairman of medical cannabis advocacy group Marijuana Majority, said Murthy’s statement is further evidence of the need to reclassify marijuana as a medical drug.

“Dr. Murthy’s comments add to a growing consensus in the medical community that marijuana can help people suffering from painful conditions,” Angell wrote in a statement.

In his own blog post on Marijuana.com, Angell noted Murthy isn’t the first surgeon general jump into the debate about marijuana policy. That honor belongs to former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, who in 1993 said the US should seriously consider legalizing drugs.

“It’s crazy that federal law still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug,” Angell said, “a category that’s supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value. In light of these comments from his top medical adviser, the president should direct the attorney general to immediately begin the process of rescheduling marijuana.”

The surgeon general may have alluded to this in his talk with CBS as well, hinting that studies from states now using marijuana legally may drive new law.

“We have to use that data to drive policymaking,” he said. “I’m very interested to see where that data takes us.”