The Slatest

Is Medical Marijuana on the New Surgeon General’s Agenda?

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CBS This Morning on Wednesday that he sees some promise in early studies on medical marijuana and indicated that he could be swayed in favor of its use for certain patients.

Murthy spent most of the interview fielding questions on the expanding outbreak of measles and the role of vaccines in public health, but his interviewers saved time at the end to ask about his position on the legalization of marijuana. Calling it “an interesting story that’s unfolding in our country right now,” Murthy described the growing discussion about the “benefits and risks” of the drug and ongoing research into the use of medical marijuana.

Host Nora O’Donnell interrupted him: “We know all of that. We want to know your position, Mr. Surgeon General, with all due respect.” Murthy did not address the issue of recreational marijuana, but spoke in favor of studying the drug’s potential for treating some ailments.

My position is that we have to see what the science tells us about the efficacy of marijuana, and I think we’re going to get a lot more data on that. We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, marijuana can be helpful. So I think we need to use that data to drive policy-making, and I’ll be very interested to see where that data takes us.

The Hill notes that Murthy was not warm to marijuana during his confirmation hearings, when he told senators that “just like other drugs, I don’t recommend marijuana, and I don’t think it’s a good habit to use marijuana. If I had kids, I would tell them not to use it.”

With the confirmation hearings behind him, a growing number of American politicians admitting to smoking pot in their youth, good preliminary news out of Colorado, and President Obama calling it no more harmful than alcohol, the atmosphere seems to have changed a bit for Murthy. If current, limited research yields positive results, Congress might be persuaded to amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow for wider study. America’s top doctor will be keeping an eye on it.