President Trump has been widely criticized for not listening to the “medical experts,” but that may not always be a bad thing.
Last year, Dr. Jerome Adams, Trump’s Surgeon General, said that pregnant women and teenagers “may be unaware that modern crops [of marijuana] pose greater health risks because of their potency.”
“This ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
Well, that ain’t nothin’ new. In fact, the potency (THC percentage by weight) has been a part of prohibitionist propaganda for decades, including the cliché about it not being your father’s Oldsmobile, or whatever. Of course, any kind of data on contraband is inherently problematic, but in states with legal marijuana, it is labeled so you can at least know what your mother is using.
Speaking at the Aspen Institute last year, Adams compared marijuana from a few years ago with marijuana today, and said it was like drinking a glass of wine versus grain alcohol.
First, one should note that wine and grain alcohol are labeled (like legal cannabis products) so you can know what you are consuming. Unlike alcohol, more “potent” cannabis has no lethal dose. If a cannabis product has 20% THC, and is labeled as such, then one can simply use less, and most people are quite accustomed to making that decision about alcohol, cannabis or cholesterol without police supervision.
In his Aspen speech, Adams also said that there is “No such thing as medical marijuana.” That is also an old line from Drug War propaganda. It is also the Trump administration’s party line, repeated by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar.
So it may be a good thing that the president doesn’t always listen to the “experts.”
But what is medicine? Is it only what has been sponsored by a pharmaceutical company for the FDA’s very expensive testing, or is it something that desperately ill people have found helpful, in spite of it being blocked by the federal government?
Also note the context. The ostensible subject was use by “pregnant women and teenagers.” Think of the children, but not the children with epilepsy, or the children with cancer, or the children whose parents have lost custody of them because CPS (Child Protective Services). The reality of marijuana prohibition.
Instead, Azar said, “This is a dangerous drug. … No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is safe.”
Of course, Azar is not a doctor but rather a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and executive. From 2012 to 2017, Azar was president of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly and Company, a major drug company, and a member of the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a large pharmaceutical trade association.
Yep. Trump has really drained the swamp.
However, the available data simply do not support Azar and Adams.
A study published earlier this month analyzed the available data and concluded: “Totality of the Evidence Suggests Prenatal Cannabis Exposure Does Not Lead to Cognitive Impairments”:
“Regardless, at present, we are concerned that a misunderstanding of the relationship between prenatal cannabis exposure and subsequent cognitive functioning leads to an oversimplification of the complex relationships between socioeconomic factors and functioning of the individual whether drug use is involved or not. Misinterpretations of the complex interactions of relevant factors in itself can cause harm to pregnant women and their children by leading to punitive policies and enhancing unwarranted stigma. In some cases, intense stigma has resulted in removal of children from their families, and even in maternal incarceration. The rationale for such policies is, in part, that prenatal cannabis exposure causes persistent deleterious effects, especially on cognitive functioning. Findings from this review suggest that this assumption should be reevaluated to ensure that our assumptions do not do more harm than the drug itself.”
In other words, prohibitionist propaganda is not a victimless crime, and it is clear that Azar and Adams oppose the very concept of medical marijuana.
The prohibitionist party line: “Retail outlets have recommended marijuana use for morning sickness, the surgeon general’s advisory noted. And doctors are concerned that T.H.C., the high-inducing chemical in marijuana, poses risks for the developing fetal brain, and that it could be passed to infants through breast milk.”
“Doctors are concerned”… All doctors? Well, let’s arrest another 22 million Americans for marijuana and see if they are “concerned.”
Note that “morning sickness” – pregnancy related nausea – is still a serious problem for some women, and not all women can afford to go to the doctor. And if President Trump doesn’t believe the medical experts, why should nauseous mothers?
Finally, in his address to The Aspen Institute, Dr. Adams, who is African American, says he is concerned about “social justice” because black men are four times more likely to be arrested than white men, but he says legalizing marijuana isn’t the answer.
Instead, he says we should eliminate racism. Oh, wonderful! Meanwhile back in the real world, more than 20 years after people with AIDS got the people of California to legalize medical marijuana, and to stop arresting sick people, a black doctor and a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist are telling us to depend on justice from the federal government during a pandemic, when marijuana arrests continue at a rate of almost two thousand per day.
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and founder of the hemp for seniors website, Blue Ribbon Hemp.