Acting DEA Director: ‘Marijuana Is Not Medicine’

By Kelly Burch 05/31/17

The acting DEA director who once called medical marijuana a joke is reiterating his anti-marijuana stance. 

Acting DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg
Acting DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg Photo via YouTube

Despite the fact that medical marijuana is now legal in the majority of the United States, the DEA maintains its long-held belief that “marijuana is not medicine.”

Speaking at the Cleveland Clinic last week, acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Chuck Rosenberg reiterated the skepticism for medical marijuana that he has expressed in the past.

"If it turns out that there is something in smoked marijuana that helps people, that's awesome," Rosenberg said, according to The Washington Examiner. "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.”

Rosenberg’s comments come as the Trump administration pits itself against marijuana legalization. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been another outspoken critic of marijuana legalization. 

“I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” Sessions said in February of this year. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that.”

Last week’s comments were not the first time that Rosenberg has taken a strong stance against medical marijuana. In 2015, when he was the acting DEA chief under the Obama administration, Rosenberg called medical marijuana “a joke” during a Q&A session with reporters. 

"What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal—because it's not," Rosenberg said at the time. "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."

He continued, "There are pieces of marijuana—extracts or constituents or component parts—that have great promise [medicinally.] But 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.”

During last week’s event, Rosenberg did conceded that studies have shown that medical marijuana can provide medical benefits for children with epilepsy. 

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who also spoke at the event, called for more research into the medical properties of cannabis. 

"Should we be reducing the administrative and other barriers to researching that in the government? 100%," he said. "But what we should not do is make policies based on guesswork. When we do that, what we do is put people at risk."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.