In a recent interview with CBS This Morning, the new U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, openly acknowledged the helpfulness of medical marijuana in the treatment of some specific medical conditions.

Currently, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Four states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Countless medical professionals have announced their support for marijuana policy reform, from CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta to, most recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics. Even President Obama has admitted that marijuana is actually safer than alcohol.

And now: “We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful, so I think we have to use that data to drive policy-making, and I’m very interested to see where that data takes us,” Dr. Murthy said.

As the nation’s top doctor, Murthy’s statement is a major political development that will help define the U.S. medical industry’s growing acceptance of cannabis therapy. With a majority of U.S. citizens, many major doctors’ organizations, and now the U.S. Surgeon General in support of moving beyond prohibition, the pressure on the federal government to take action is ever-mounting.

For now, removing marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 substances under the Controlled Substances Act would be a game-changing allowance. This would open up new opportunities in marijuana research and send a strong political message about the Drug War’s momentous failure.

There is a pattern of U.S. Surgeon Generals historically expressing a stance open to the idea of medical marijuana, or at least open to the discussion of policy reforms. Regina Benjamin, who held the position from 2009-2013, admitted that the drug might serve some medical benefit. Joycelyn Elders, who was the U.S. Surgeon General in the early 1990’s, announced in 2010 that she supported the full legalization of cannabis, even going so far as to say it was “not a toxic substance.”


Photo Credit: Leslie J. Clary

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