U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy — the nation’s head public health official — acknowledged this week that cannabis can be helpful for certain medical conditions. This is huge since — despite stacks of research and countless user anecdotes showing the medical benefits of cannabis use — the U.S. government still lists it as a Schedule I drug with “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical treatment.”
Today, voters in 23 states and Washington DC have legalized medical marijuana programs in their states (and four states now allow all 21-and-over adults to use cannabis recreationally). However, the federal government has done little to acknowledge the public opinion — and science — supporting change in cannabis policy.
While national policies remain stuck in the last century, public opinion is shifting steadily in favor of loosening cannabis rules. In polls across the board, a solid majority of Americans think cannabis laws should change. Eight of ten people think medical use of cannabis should be federally allowed, and a WebMD poll last April showed the majority of American medical doctors support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center completed last February, the majority of Americans think adult-use marijuana should be legal. And, several polls show more than half of Americans in support of full-blown adult-use cannabis.
Now, it appears, even the nation’s top doctor is catching onto the trend.
On February 4, Murthy told CBS This Morning:
“We have some preliminary data showing that for some medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful. So I think we have to use that data to drive policymaking, and I’m very interested to see where that data takes us.”
Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the largest organization working solely on marijuana policy reform in the United States, said Murthy’s comments appear to be part of a larger attitude shift in the medical world.
“The surgeon general is just the latest addition to a large list of prominent health professionals, medical societies, foundations, and advocacy organizations that acknowledge the medical benefits of marijuana,” he said in a press release. “We hope he will agree that seriously ill people deserve safe and legal access to this medicine. Lawmakers in several states are considering medical marijuana legislation, and it is critical that they hear from people in his position.”
Watch the full interview below (Murthy’s comments on medical cannabis begin at 3:48):