Former FDA commissioner says feds need to regulate marijuana – POLITICO

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Scott Gottlieb

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. | Zach Gibson/Getty Images

It’s time for the federal government to regulate marijuana sensibly so it can assess the medical value of a plant whose use has skyrocketed as states legalize or decriminalize it, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a speech obtained by POLITICO.

The cannabis derivative CBD has boomed in popularity since the 2018 farm bill legalized hemp, he noted, while marijuana vapes have been linked to the ongoing outbreak of a mysterious lung disease that has killed seven people so far. Meanwhile, fantastic but untested medical claims are being made for the plant and its components.

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“If we believe that cannabis has medicinal potential, we should enable suitable research rather than bypass these norms through wholesale legalization,” he said in remarks during a Pellegrino Award luncheon at Samford University’s School of Pharmacy.

Those regulations could include rescheduling the plant, which remains in Drug Enforcement Agency’s most restrictive drug class, Schedule I, along with heroin and LSD. But Gottlieb said any relaxation of marijuana’s legal status should be for the goal of conducting research, “not to support recreational use.”

“Cannabis has been around a long time. There’s been plenty of time to develop rigorous science to affirm its purported medicinal benefits,” Gottlieb told researchers at the conference. Still, the body of evidence is “thin” — and the existing research would never pass muster with the Food and Drug Administration, he said.

He acknowledged challenges, including cumbersome DEA requirements and the fact that the only federal source of research marijuana, in Mississippi, grows low-quality product and authorizes few researchers to use it, leading researchers to sue for better access.

“These are addressable challenges. Congress can take specific action to enable easier access to cannabis that’s appropriate for medical research,” Gottlieb said. “Ultimately, we need to move past the social stigma around cannabis and address these complex public health and regulatory issues objectively.”

This article originally appeared here in https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/19/marijuana-regulation-fda-commissioner-1502611

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