BOSTON–The Washington Post interviewed U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams in early December, resulting in a video post entitled “Tackling the Opioid Crisis: The Federal View,” and a frank discussion that highlighted Adams’ view on medical marijuana policy.
His comments primarily addressed the opioid crisis in America including insights from personal experience involving a younger brother currently incarcerated, due in part, to substance abuse issues. Adams pointed out that self-medicating for chronic pain, both physical and mental, was a primary cause of opioid use, often leading to drug abuse. He posited that un-diagnosed depression and anxiety led to substance abuse for his brother.
During the interview, Washington Post health and medicine correspondent Lenny Bernstein took a question from Twitter for Adams and asked, “How much will increased legalization of marijuana lead to increased addiction to other drugs, like opioids and heroin?”
At 18:30 in the video, the Surgeon General responded as follows:
“It’s important that we understand that there’s a difference between the discussion of the medicinal properties of marijuana–and I don’t say ‘medical marijuana’ because there’s no such thing as medical marijuana anymore than there is such thing as medical poppy, which is the plant from which heroin and opioids are derived’ here are medicinal components of marijuana.
“There’s a difference between looking at that, and looking at our criminal laws, which again, do need to be looked at,” Adams continued. “It shouldn’t be a ten-year sentence in one state and a slap on the wrist in another state, and we also need to look at the recreational side of things–recreational use. And from that point of view, it would be terribly disingenuous of me, as Surgeon General, to say you shouldn’t smoke a cigarette but I’m fine for you to go and light up a joint.
“With that said, we know that marijuana primes the brain for other addiction as it did with my brother. It can cause developmental delay, particularly in the young and developing brain, and we still don’t know the effects on the body especially if you are smoking it. If cigarettes cause cancer then there’s every reason to believe that long-term usage of marijuana can cause cancer,” he said finally.
Various media outlets also highlighted Surgeon General Adams’ comments on December 6, in Boston, where he spoke to an audience of law enforcement officials. The event was part of a two-day seminar sponsored by the Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative.
Though his comments focused on the opioid crisis, Adams pointed out to attendees that current status for cannabis as a Schedule I hazardous substance on the Drug Enforcement Agency list was preventing research into potential medical uses for cannabis.
News agency Associated Press reported that Adams said DEA scheduling and drug-related laws should be looked at and continue to evolve. On the topic of nationwide drug decriminalization, he advocated for states to regulate legal markets. Adams told seminar attendees, “I don’t think it’s the federal government’s place. I don’t personally think it makes the country safer.”
(Video: Courtesy WashingtonPost.com)