The Guy in Charge of the DEA Just Called Medical Marijuana a "Joke"

Carey Wedler
November 4, 2015

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(ANTIMEDIAWashington D.C. — Recently appointed DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg won support from marijuana advocates in August when he admitted, unlike his predecessor, that marijuana is not as harmful as heroin. This week, however, the head of the agency revealed his actual position on cannabis: He called medicinal marijuana a “joke” and insisted the plant is “bad,” “dangerous,” and has no medical benefits.

What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal — because it’s not,” Rosenberg told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday. “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.

Though the DEA chief admitted cannabis extracts like CBD oil have “promise,” he maintained that “…if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”

Aside from his presumption of what millions of people mean when they refer to “medical marijuana,” Rosenberg’s stance is fallacious and deceptive for a variety of reasons. First, and most obvious, smoking medical marijuana does have recorded medical benefits and has been shown to work safely and effectively as medicine.

Scientific research shows that inhaling (smoking) marijuana specifically helps treat symptoms of debilitating diseases like Crohn’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and HIV, among many others. Marijuana in all of its forms — not just inhaled — is increasingly found to have positive medical effects. This helps explain why countless health organizations around the world have endorsed legalizing marijuana in some capacity.

82% of oncologists said in a survey that marijuana should be offered as a treatment option. The FDA itself has approved two cannabinoids for the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, though the agency has not approved the general use of cannabis. Research suggests marijuana can be effective at decreasing these symptoms, but cancer.gov claims that at this time, “there is not enough evidence to recommend that patients inhale or ingest Cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms or side effects of cancer therapy.” This mythical ‘lack of evidence’ constitutes the crux of Rosenberg’s argument against medical marijuana and extends far beyond cancer treatment.

His assertion that marijuana “has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine” is particularly manipulative for one gaping reason: the DEA has spent decades undermining research into the medical effects of cannabis.

Currently, only 6% of marijuana research focuses on the plant’s health benefits, and the DEA is largely to blame. A report released last year from the Drug Policy Alliance indicted the enforcement agency for its staunch opposition to investigating the plant’s medicinal properties. The analysis detailed the methods the DEA has used over the years to crush potential for research.

One segment of the report focused on this particular mechanism of stifling research:

The DEA has argued for decades that there is insufficient evidence to support rescheduling marijuana or the medical use of marijuana. At the same time, it has – along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse – acted in a manner intended to systematically impede scientific research. Through the use of such tactics, the DEA has consistently demonstrated that it is more interested in maintaining existing drug laws than in making important drug control decisions based on scientific evidence,” the paper explained.

Though Rosenberg obviously did not control the DEA for these decades of suppression (and has said he plans to focus less on marijuana while in charge of the agency), he faithfully towed the line in September when he insisted marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug. That Schedule I classification directly impedes further research.

While the federal government — including the DEA — recently loosened the decades-long crusade against medical marijuana research, the dearth of information caused by prohibitive policy is a major factor in Rosenberg’s stance.  Unsurprisingly, he failed to acknowledge his agency’s direct role in suffocating research on the topic.

Interestingly, however, Rosenberg admitted Wednesday that many legal substances are dangerous:  “I don’t recommend [marijuana], but there is other stuff in our society that is dangerous that is perfectly legal,” he said.

His acknowledgment that other dangerous substances are still legally permitted appears to be an implicit understanding of the concept of “self-ownership” — that human beings have an innate right to choose what they put in their bodies as long as they are not harming anyone else. In spite of his acceptance of this premise, however, he continues to fervently crusade against Americans’ right to decide if marijuana is right for them — spewing false propaganda about the “joke” of medical marijuana along the way.

RELATED: What You Need to Know About DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg


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