At a press conference held in Kettering, Ohio, last Friday United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, “There really is no such thing as medical marijuana.”
He was speaking on the opioid crisis at a media event held at an in-patient facility for infants affected by pre-natal drug exposure.
“There is no FDA approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that,” Azar added.
According to the Dayton Daily News, Azar also said President Trump and Congress are focused on devoting funding to a $13 billion “opioid and mental health program” but does not recognize medical marijuana as an approved treatment for pain.
““Over $750 million just in 2019 alone is going to be dedicated towards the National Institutes of Health (NIH) working in public-private partnership to try and develop the next generation of pain therapies that are not opioids.”
Since increased medical cannabis legalization, numerous research studies have been published with results that seem to indicate that medical cannabis treatment is effective for intractable pain, as well as reduce or stop use of opioid pain medications. The NIH has provided funding for several of those studies.
Azar is a former president for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lily and Company. He also served on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a pharmaceutical lobby, while at Lily. He resigned both positions in January 2017.
In January 2018, he was confirmed as HHS Secretary and sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence. Azar, an attorney, was first appointed General Counsel for the HHS in 2001, after working for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, and Azar was HHS Deputy Secretary from 2005-07. Azar also clerked for conservative icon and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, after graduating from Yale in 1991. A Republican, Azar has donated to various candidates and campaigns, including Pence, Mitch McConnell, Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, Jeb Bush, and Donald Trump.