While the U.S. Surgeon General is largely a ceremonial position with no real effect on policy, they can still bring attention to and help start important conversations on health-related topics. So it’s somewhat surprising that the current U.S. Surgeon General has spoken out on a new topic: medical marijuana.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams appeared at an event in Indianapolis and was asked about his opinion on medical marijuana. He then, somewhat surprisingly, said he supports researching the drug.
“Under medical marijuana, I believe it should be like any other drug,” Adams said. “We need to let the FDA vet it, study it, vet it. The FDA has actually approved cannabidiol oil and some derivatives of marijuana, Marijuana is not one substance. It’s actually over 100 different substances, some of which benefit, some of which are harmful.”
He then said that he does not support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but he didn’t use an argument commonly heard. Unlike many in the federal government who claim the drug is dangerous and leads to criminal behavior, he said he couldn’t support it because, as Surgeon General, he doesn’t believe he should condone people smoking any substances.
“How am I going to tell you not to smoke a cigarette but I am going to tell you to pick up a joint? I can’t do it, can’t do it,” Adams said. “So while I want to make sure we can get the ingredients of medical marijuana appropriately derived so that folks can access treatment, I also have concerns about us encouraging folks to go out and smoke because there’s unintended consequences. I don’t want 10 years down the road where we’re seeing an epidemic of lung cancer among folks who are smoking medical marijuana.”
Of course, marijuana can be consumed a number of different ways, such as edibles. So would Adams support making non-smokable forms of marijuana legal? That is not known.
And there is also significant evidence that smoking marijuana is not remotely as dangerous to lung health as smoking cigarettes. So Adams “excuse” for not supporting marijuana legalization doesn’t really hold up much to scrutiny.
But this would seem to make Adams an outlier among Trump nominees in terms of marijuana legalization. Unfortunately, his position is mostly ceremonial, so he won’t be able to use his opinions to change much about America’s drug laws.