U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Sunday that he does not think there is value to incarcerating people for marijuana use and that science should be our guide in policymaking.
“When it comes to decriminalization, I don't think that there is value to individuals or to society to lock people up for marijuana use. I don't think that serves anybody well,” Murthy told host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Dash asked Murthy if he supported, from a health perspective, the draft bill unveiled last week by Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to legalize cannabis at the federal level. Murthy replied that, when discussing marijuana, science should be at the forefront.
“I do think that, in terms of our approach to marijuana, I worry when we don't let science guide our process in policy-making,” Murthy said.
“And we know the science tells us that there are some benefits to marijuana from a medical perspective but there are also some harms that we have to consider—and we have to put those together as we think about the right policy.”
Murthy, the 19th and 21st Surgeon General who also served under President Obama, said he is concerned about the effort to change cannabis laws getting ahead of the science.
"And as surgeon general that’s my role, is to work with policymakers who work with members in the community and the general public to help people understand what science tells us and where there are gaps, to help fill those gaps with research and with honest inquiry," Murthy said.
In 2015, during his first term as Surgeon General under Obama, Murthy appeared to be open-minded about the possibility that cannabis could be beneficial as a treatment for various conditions. At the time, Murthy said in a television interview that “preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful,” and that such information will likely drive legislation governing marijuana use.
Very shortly after the marijuana legalization draft bill was made public last Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that President Joe Biden was still opposed to the reform although she added that the president would be “encouraged” by efforts to advance incremental reform such as decriminalizing possession, in that he pledged to do that while on the campaign trail.
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