During a speech at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio last week, Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Chuck Rosenberg disparaged the use of cannabis as medicine…again.
“If it turns out that there is something in smoked marijuana that helps people, that’s awesome,” he said. “I will be the last person to stand in the way of that. … But let’s run it through the Food and Drug Administration process, and let’s stick to the science on it.”
The call for FDA approval of medical cannabis is a common one, especially among those who can’t muster actual opposition based on the facts about marijuana. As much as they’d like to pretend that the FDA is the final authority on whether something can be used as a safe medicine, the dozens of FDA-approved prescription drugs that were later recalled belie that notion.
Beyond that, millions of people rely on medical cannabis every day to treat various ailments with a great deal of success. But it seems none of that matters to people like Chuck Rosenberg.
This is not the first time Rosenberg has said something completely uninformed about cannabis. In late 2015 he called medical marijuana a “joke,” and it would seem that in the 18+ months since, he has done no research on the issue whatsoever.
Those who support marijuana legalization for medicinal purposes have no problem with more research. But to claim that marijuana is not medicine just because the very fallible people at the FDA have not deemed it so is either ignorant or a calculated effort to deceive the public. Since information on marijuana as medicine is readily available to anyone with an Internet connection, I would lean toward the latter.
As time goes on, the DEA proves more and more just how useless it is; a waste of taxpayer money to the tune of billions of dollars every year, with no end in sight. As much as we would all like to believe that the DEA’s reign of error will be over soon, the federal government is not known for dismantling agencies that waste taxpayer money. If anything, they just throw more money at the problem and hope things get better.
People like Chuck Rosenberg having power over marijuana policy in this country is hurting millions of citizens every day. Patients know that marijuana is medicine because they have seen it work. Chuck Rosenberg would see it too, if he ever bothered to look.
Originally published: The Marijuana Times
In late December 2015, lost amongst the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, office parties, and spiked egg nog, a group of eight U.S. senators, all Democrats, sent a letter to three high-level bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., one each at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Senators Barbara Boxer (California), Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey (Massachusetts), Cory Booker (New Jersey), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (Oregon), and Barbara Mikulski (Maryland) sent a nearly four-page letter to the acting officers of these government agencies. Conspicuously absent from the author list was Republican senator and libertarian torch bearer Rand Paul (Kentucky), possibly due to his presidential campaign.
Paul, along with junior senators Booker and Gillibrand, in early 2015 sponsored the CARERS Act, bi-partisan legislation that would further force the federal government to recognize a state’s right to legalize cannabis for any reason, reclassify the herb as Schedule II (it is currently Schedule I), eliminate several barriers to research, and — most important — make it easier for military veterans to obtain recommendations for medical cannabis from Veterans Affairs doctors (most notably for PTSD, depression, and anxiety).
More specifically, the target of the letter was Chuck Rosenberg, the Acting Administrator of the DEA, Michael Botticelli, Director of the ONDCP, and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Secretary of HHS. Rosenberg made headlines in late 2015 when he discounted the medicinal properties of cannabis and the efficacy gained by millions of patients nationwide, calling med pot a “joke” and saying that cannabis “never has been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
Call for Collaboration
The letter pointed out the need for a wide range of government agencies and research organizations to somehow combine their efforts to reach the goal of more comprehensive medical cannabis research. Wrote the senators in the opening of their letter:
“…there is a need and unique opportunity for federal agencies to collaborate with each other…”
The letter stressed the “unique opportunity” for states to conduct population-based, clinical, “and other basic research on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.” The letter went on to note the hurdles and barriers to federally-authorized cannabis research that are supported or maintained by a variety of government agencies. It identified the current regulatory scheme for medical cannabis research as “outdated and in desperate need of serious and immediate review.”
Areas of Focus
The letter focused on five key points, as summarized below:
- Supply Limits. The senators questioned the ability of a single farm at the University of Mississippi to produce an adequate supply of high-quality, “medical grade” cannabis for multiple research studies nationwide. The pot farm at the University of Mississippi holds the only bulk manufacture permit issued by the DEA and has cultivated and produced cannabis that many patients, physicians, and experts have labeled low-quality and as offering relatively little medicinal benefit. Thus, any study conducted in the United States using this low-quality herb would result in lower efficacy rates among participants — in essence, rigging the game for those who oppose medical pot.
- Rescheduling. Cannabis, which currently is part of Schedule I under the Controlled Substances Act, has been argued as a logical candidate for a lower ranking, such as Schedule II or III. The Food and Drug Administration has completed an analysis of the rescheduling of cannabis, and, it appears, HHS has provided “scientific and medical evaluations, as well as a scheduling recommendation” to the DEA. The query from the senators: What was the recommendation, and what is the timetable for review of the recommendation? This section of the letter also calls for the rescheduling of CBD oil.
- Interagency Coordination. Echoing one of the primary themes of the letter, coordination and cooperation, its authors cite a research application approval process that is “long, cumbersome, and difficult to navigate.” The senators request that the recipients explain how they “plan to work together to encourage qualified research applications” and asks them to describe the application process for qualified cannabis researchers.
- Surveillance and Epidemiological Studies. Such studies would gather data regarding how cannabis is actually being used, both medically and recreationally. The letter specifically calls for an investigation of cannabis use in “diverse populations and with multiple modes of administration.” If this actually occurred, government authorities would gather some rare insight into the economic and social aspects of cannabis consumption among a wide variety of demographic groups.
- Coordination with States. The senators would like to see “regular and organized communication” between agencies like HHS and state organizations such as public health departments — especially those in legal medical or recreational states like Michigan, California, Colorado, and Oregon — from which invaluable data can be obtained for further analysis or consideration from a national perspective.
The senators requested responses to their inquiries by January 31, 2016.
Photo credit: MSNBC, CBS News
Just a few short months ago, the acting chief administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Chuck Rosenberg, shocked the American people by admitting that heroin is obviously more dangerous than cannabis — something his predecessor of eight years, Michele Leonhart (who resigned following a sex party scandal), refused to acknowledge.
Now, however, much to the dismay of those who thought the acting chief was perhaps turning over a new leaf for the DEA, Rosenberg has declared that the medicinal use of marijuana is in fact a ‘joke’ and that it “never has been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
All anecdotal and scientific evidence aside, perhaps Rosenberg does not realize that the US government holds a patent regarding marijuana as medicine.
As the American people continue to demand that federal marijuana laws be reformed, Rosenberg indicates that people should not fuse the arguments of legalizing recreational marijuana with medicinal marijuana.
“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.”
As a result of this recent statement from Rosenberg, more than 8,000 Americans (and growing) are petitioning for his resignation (click here to find the petition).
As it stands, 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing patients the opportunity to legally utilize the medicinal value and efficacy of cannabis. In addition, 17 states have approved “CBD-only” laws, meaning that qualifying patients are permitted to consume low-THC, high-CBD cannabis concentrates (most often in the form of oil).
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis which has gained national recognition for it’s powerful efficacy in the treatment of conditions like epilepsy, pain, cancer, arthritis and more. Experts argue, however, that all cannabinoids working together in a process called the entourage effect provide significantly more medicinal value than single cannabinoid therapies, so CBD-only legislation is not widely supported.
Nearly 80 percent of states have approved the use of medical marijuana, yet it will continue to be illegal under federal law as long as the plant remains classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Those classified as Schedule I substances, like heroin, are defined as having no recognized medicinal value in the United States. Recognizing that cannabis does not deserve such a classification, Sen. Bernie Sanders recently introduced legislation that would strike cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby unscheduling it, and ending federal prohibition.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has a new leader, and he just admitted that heroin is more dangerous than cannabis.
In the wake of Michele Leonhart’s resignation following a sex party scandal, Chuck Rosenberg is the acting administrator for the governmental organization. Rosenberg, a former prosecutor with a largely unknown stance on drug reform, is expected to be less critical in his policies.
Rosenberg’s potentially game-changing statements were first made on July 28, 2015 during a conference call. During the call Rosenberg stated:
“If you want me to say that marijuana’s not dangerous, I’m not going to say that because I think it is. Do I think it’s as dangerous as heroin? Probably not. I’m not an expert.”
While these cautious statements do not indicate support for the legalization of cannabis, they do instigate some hope of reform in DEA policy and practice.
Now, there is even more hope to be had after a press briefing at the administration’s headquarters on Wednesday August 5 when Rosenberg clarified his previous statements. Confirmed to The Huffington Post by DEA spokesperson Joseph Moses, Rosenberg clarified:
“Heroin is clearly more dangerous than marijuana.”
Leonhart, in comparison, stated she thought cannabis was “insidious,” and she indicated that equating the plant with harmful drugs like heroin and crack cocaine was a “subjective” endeavor. In the aftermath of Rosenberg’s predecessor, his statements could be considered a good step forward. Currently, four states allow recreational cannabis use and 23 allow medical usage. However, federally the plant is still illegal to cultivate and consume in any situation. The new DEA administrator’s stance inspires the hope that this legal gray area may be resolved in the future.
For now, Rosenberg will ask DEA agents to focus on high priority cases such as those involving heroin, meth, opioids and cocaine. The administrator admitted that cannabis tends to take a lower priority when pitted against these substances. Consequently, it should be noted that he has not told agents to shy away from anti-cannabis actions in states that have legalized or decriminalized the plant. Regardless, Rosenberg will focus on a prescription drug program that will try to reduce the existence of unused prescription opioids in households.