As progressive marijuana policy sweeps the nation—with 23 states and D.C. legalizing medical marijuana and four states legalizing marijuana outright—not everyone is on board. CNBC reported Saturday, Nov. 7, Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Chuck Rosenberg (unsurprisingly) called the notion of smoking marijuana as medicine a “joke.”
Here are his exact words: “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal—because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine—that is a joke.”
To be clear, Rosenberg was careful to make a deliberate distinction between smoking marijuana flower versus using CBD-driven extracts and topicals. CBD is a chemical compound found in marijuana that has been medically proven to treat a wide range of conditions, including severe epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. In addition to the 23 states with legal medical marijuana, 17 states have legalized CBD-only medical marijuana use.
“There are pieces of marijuana—extracts or constituents or component parts—that have great promise,” he said, speaking of the CBD compound. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana, which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana, it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”
While 80 percent of states have legalized some form of medical marijuana, the drug remains illegal under federal law. For Rosenberg and his DEA colleagues, they’d like to keep it that way. After all, the agency—known infamously for its endless war on drugs—has filled its coffers for decades going after both legal and illegal marijuana users, producers and distributors. As states test the waters of marijuana legalization, it’s easy to see the DEA shaking in its boots, as much of their job—and funding—revolves around enforcing a trivial federal policy that has essentially been undermined by the voting public.
In fact, 58 percent of Americans support legal marijuana use, according to an Oct. 21 Gallup poll.
Whether Rosenberg likes it or not, progressive marijuana policy is gaining traction across the country—and not just in the typical liberal enclaves. This month’s elections alone saw legalization efforts in Ohio and in Colorado, voters decided on what to do with $66 million in revenue from regulating and taxing the controversial plant. While medical marijuana is seen by the DEA as a “joke,” a growing majority of Americans disagree.