“We don’t know what we don’t know,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during his testimony at Wednesday’s Senate hearing titled “Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers.”
This was a curious statement coming from someone who, during the same session, continued to reference research data on synthetic cannabinoids and isolated compounds as a reliable predictor of full-spectrum product effects on brain development.
“I’ll be the first to admit we need to know more,” Adams said as he quoted his recent advisory nearly verbatim. “But I want you to hear this: We know enough now to deliver sound guidance to protect the future of our nation’s youth.”
But do we?
The hearing, convened by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, was led by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and included testimony from the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, as well as a panel of renowned university researchers.
While Feinstein acknowledged the complexity of the plant in her opening remarks and noted that she has personally witnessed the medical benefits of cannabis in the lives of family members, the underlying tone of the conversation remained one of consequence, not benefit.
Senator Cornyn went so far as to compare the implications of cannabis advocacy to the mid-century health claims of tobacco both during the hearing and in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday preceding the caucus session:
“There’s no shortage of people who claim that marijuana has endless health benefits and can help patients struggling from everything from epilepsy to anxiety to cancer treatments,” he said. “This reminds me of some of the advertising we saw from the tobacco industry years ago where they actually claimed public health benefits from smoking tobacco, which we know as a matter of fact were false and that tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive drug, and is implicated with cancers of different kinds.”
Regardless of the prohibitory emphasis on negative outcomes throughout the committee hearing, the consensus was one of hope: that the Schedule-I status of cannabis must be lifted if we are to more fully understand how purchasable products and realistic dosing affect consumer health outcomes.
This message comes on top of recent legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein to expand cannabis research as well as an increase in funding from the National Institute of Health for nine new studies on minor cannabinoids and terpenes.
The irony, of course, is that legislators are demanding more research be completed before policy changes can be made while, at the same time, limiting that needed research through the continuation of Schedule 1 status.
“Policymakers [need] to comprehend the public security implications of enhanced marijuana use just before we dive in to the admittedly complicated and tough job of altering federal policy,” Sen. Cornyn stated, adding, “It appears like we’re placing the cart ahead of the horse.”
The most persuasive and thoughtful testimony came from Dr. Staci Gruber, director of the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core at McLean Hospital’s Brain Imaging Center and an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Healthcare College. Dr. Gruber’s testimony pushed back at the notion that this conversation is solely one particular of THC intoxication and harm reduction for chronic, heavy customers. She produced the point that not all cannabis use appears the identical and reminded the caucus of the plant’s outstanding complexity and therapeutic possible that goes far beyond the scope of a THC vs. CBD discussion.
“When it comes to marijuana, one particular size does not match all. We have a single term: marijuana, and we usually hear it utilised to refer to something like the complete plant or person compounds from the plant, intoxicating or not.” Dr. Gruber went on to say, “The plant is extremely complicated. Other compounds could yield therapeutic possible but we do not have a great deal in the way of lengthy term research and, sadly, it is really tough to study these compounds utilizing clinical trial models, sort of the gold normal for deriving empirical sound information, provided our existing restrictions.”
When asked by Sen. Cornyn no matter if Congress could set forth legislation that classifies THC independently of other non-intoxicating cannabinoids and compounds, Dr. Gruber was rapid to point out that the 2018 Farm Bill which asserts hemp production (cannabis containing .three% THC or much less by law) currently tends to make allowances for this. She also emphasized that, in addition to the recreational market’s interest in THC potency, lots of healthcare individuals also seek out THC-wealthy goods for relief.
« Why hurt one particular for the reason that of a further? » Gruber asked, « Regardless of how you really feel about marijuana, science, and not emotion or rhetoric, should be our guide. We have a duty to deliver the most effective and most correct information to healthcare marijuana individuals, our recreational buyers, our healthcare providers and the common public so they can make the most effective and most informed choices about marijuana use. »
No matter whether hunting at rescheduling by means of a lens of consequence or advantage, the takeaway from the committee hearing was clear: legalization has outpaced science and legislators should operate toward dropping the Schedule 1 status of cannabis in order to assure access to fantastic information for buyers and healthcare specialists alike. Basing policy on incomplete study does everybody a disservice and promotes the continuation of alarmist rhetoric stemming from an outdated and misinformed mindset.
The committee hearing on Marijuana and America’s Well being: Queries and Difficulties for Policy Makers can be located in its entirety right here.