At a press conference in Ohio on Friday, United States Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was addressing concerns about the opioid epidemic when he made some noteworthy comments regarding cannabis.
When asked how medical marijuana could potentially play a part in curtailing harmful opioid addiction, Azar responded, “There really is no such thing as medical marijuana.”
Ohio is about to roll out its medical marijuana program. The statement sparked discussion online by many curious about its meaning.
In #Ohio today, I spoke about the importance of treating addiction as a medical challenge rather than a moral failing, as well as our support for medication-assisted treatment. pic.twitter.com/xvGrXkDIFy
— Alex Azar (@SecAzar) March 2, 2018
“U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in Kettering today, “There really is no such thing as medical marijuana.””… He forgot to mention that it’s because the federal gov’t has been the biggest obstructionist in the science around the plant. Take ownership.
— GoBlueCdn (@GoBlueCdn) March 3, 2018
Trump’s Health Chief, Alex Azar, said there’s no such thing as medical marijuana. Azar is the former Pres. of the US division of Eli Lilly & Co, & a board member of Biotechnology Invocation Org, a pharmaceutical lobby. A former drug company exec is against #MMJ? Shocking. ???
— Maryjane’s Baby ? (@spookysmoker) March 5, 2018
Azar clarified his sentiments on medical marijuana by saying, “There is no FDA approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that.”
While many studies point to marijuana as a possible replacement or supplement to prescription painkillers, the federal government continues to ignore its efficacy in their search for an alternative therapeutic option for chronic and acute pain.
“We are devoting hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of research at our National Institutes of Health as part of the historic $13 billion opioid and serious mental illness program that the President and Congress are funding,” Azar explained. “Over $750 million just in 2019 alone is going to be dedicated towards the National Institutes of Health working in public-private partnership to try and develop the next generation of pain therapies that are not opioids.”
Azar’s representation of our government’s stance on cannabis is technically true as the plant isn’t recognized for its medicinal properties at the federal level. This refusal to allow research keeps marijuana at its current Schedule I level and stalls the research necessary to explore its therapeutic potential.
Azar previously served as president of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s United States operations, where drug prices rose across the board under his leadership.