Medical marijuana companies can't talk about the health effects of their products, but politicians can say whatever crazy things they want about marijuana. That's the message implied by the FDA's recent decision to crackdown on medical marijuana companies making unproven claims about their products while letting New Jersey Governor Chris Christie make equally false and significantly more dangerous allegations about cannabis.
Last week, the FDA sent warning letters to companies advertising the cannabis-extract cannabidiol CBD as a cure for cancer. According to the letters, these companies were making claims like, “CBD … [has] anti-proliferative properties that inhibit cell division and growth in certain types of cancer, not allowing the tumor to grow.”
The agency is cracking down on those companies for two reasons. One, their claims have not been proven (though preliminary studies suggest CBD could make tumors shrink or even disappear altogether). And two, their marketing campaign contradicts federal law. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, meaning the feds define cannabis as a drug that's as dangerous as heroin and has no accepted medical use. So despite the mounting evidence that cannabis does have medicinal uses, the FDA has a right to go after any companies that suggests marijuana has health benefits.
But while they're cracking down on groups making false claims about marijuana, the FDA should also send a letter to Governor Christie, who is jeopardizing lives with his anti-marijuana rhetoric.
While giving a speech in Indiana last week, Christie said, "Marijuana legalization will lead to more drug use, not less drug use, will lead to more death not less death, and the national institute of drug abuse has proven it. There is no reason, if I told you today that anything would make your child two and a half times more likely to be addicted to opioids, you would be getting them as far away from it as you possibly could."
Those aren't just the words of a political crackpot going off on a rant. That's the chair of President Trump's opioid commission making serious allegations about medical marijuana, so we should take Christie's claims seriously. Especially since they're false.
Nobody has ever died of a marijuana overdose — even the DEA admits that. Moreover, marijuana does not lead to opioid addiction as Christie suggests. Opioid addiction typically begins with patients abusing prescription pills like percocet, not by smoking a joint. In fact, recent studies suggest marijuana could actually help addicts wean themselves off opioids. So Christie is basically scapegoating a possible solution as the problem.
And he's doing it using the erroneous 'gateway drug theory.' Which is as much of a real theory as 'blue raspberry' is a real fruit. 'Blue raspberry' is actually a marketing ploy to get around the FDA's ban on red dye, and the 'gateway drug theory' is actually a bad government policy predicated on ignorance, not science. Calculated ignorance, as a matter of fact.
Marijuana became a Schedule I drug thanks to President Nixon, who put together a special commission to justify that policy. Instead, the commission told him they couldn't find any justification for that classification and that he should repeal pot prohibition since marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol. But Nixon dismissed their recommendations and went ahead with classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance because prohibiting pot was useful for locking up political opponents, according to one of Nixon's former aides.
So there's no scientific basis for the notion that marijuana is a dangerous drug that has no medical value. In fact, that notion contradicts the current medical research as well as human history.
“Of course cannabis has medical uses,” Dr. Donald Abrams — an oncologist researching at the University of California, San Francisco — told Scientific American last year. “It’s pretty clear from anthropological and archaeological evidence that cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years—and it was a medicine in the U.S. until 1942...I’m an oncologist and I say all the time, not a day goes by when I’m not recommending cannabis to patients for nausea, loss of appetite, pains, insomnia and depression—it works.”
So if the FDA is serious about cracking down on organizations that spread false claims about marijuana, then they need to send some warning letters to Congress, President Trump and the DEA, Governor Christie and any else who claims that cannabis has no medicinal value. A claim that is especially ridiculous right now.
Saying there is no accepted medical use for cannabis in America while 30 states have legalized marijuana is as absurd as saying climate change isn't real after witnessing some of the worst hurricanes in American history. Oh wait, the Trump administration did that. Okay, let's say it's as insane as saying American's gun control laws are fine right after a mass shooting. Wait, the Trump administration did that too.
Alright, then, it's pretty clear that the problem isn't just that Chris Christie is scapegoating a potential solution as the cause of a problem he's been tasked to solve — a problem that has killed 300,000 Americans in the last 20 years. The real problem is the fact that reality takes a backseat to rhetoric in America today.