FDA head’s comments on marijuana create confusion

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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb sends mixed messages on marijuana’s future

It’s looking more like marijuana will receive federal approval – at least on some level – next year. The push has already begun with the possible approval of the Farm Bill, which will legalize industrial hemp, and more individuals with political power continue to show their support for further legalization. Among these is the head of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, but comments he has made recently show that there is still a lot of work to be done and that some still don’t accept marijuana’s place in the medical industry.

In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, Gottlieb said that he is concerned about the marijuana movement. One particular comment seems to be in direct contradiction to everything we have come to understand about marijuana. He said, “Recreational marijuana doesn’t fall within our purview right now. But look, we do regulate compounds that are making drug claims and we regulate botanical use of marijuana. We have approved compounds derived from marijuana, but there is no demonstrated medical use of botanical marijuana. That’s the bottom line.”

The fact that he can make the statement after the FDA approved a cannabis-based drug, Epidiolex, for fighting epilepsy seems to be a complete paradox. It also demonstrates that the FDA might take a stronger position in marijuana regulations.

Marijuana proponents don’t need to be too concerned by the comments, however. Gottlieb also said during the interview, “There’s probably going to be a policy reckoning around this at some point in the future. Obviously, it’s happening at the state level, and I think there’s an inevitability that it’s going to happen at the federal level at some point soon.”

32 states have now legalized marijuana in some form. More than two-thirds of the population in the U.S. supports further legalization. While the subject is still extremely polarizing – and some apparently don’t recognize the true benefits to Mother Nature’s wonder drug – it’s only a matter of time before politicians overwhelmingly throw their support behind making marijuana legal, at least on a medical level.

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