Surgeon General, Dr Vivek Murthy, said he doesn't think there is "value" to society in jailing people for cannabis use.
“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,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in a CNN appearance. “I don’t think that serves anybody well.”
President Joe Biden, who opposes broad legalization, campaigned on a platform of incremental decriminalization and expunging past records, but has taken no steps to follow through on those promises since taking office.
During an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy said there are "some benefits" to cannabis from a medical perspective, but also "some harms we have to consider" when lawmakers elaborate policies.
In addition, the surgeon general said he doesn't think there is "value" to society in jailing people for cannabis use.
The comments came in response to a question from "State of the Union" host Dana Bash about the recent introduction of federal legislation – the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act – to legalize cannabis.
“When it comes to marijuana, I think we have to let science guide us,” Murthy said in the CNN interview. “And we know that 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, who previously served as surgeon general under the Obama administration, said he is concerned about the effort to change cannabis laws getting ahead of the science.
“In terms of our approach to marijuana, I worry when we don’t let science guide our process and policymaking,” he said in the latest comments. “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 you gaps, to help fill those gaps with research and with honest inquiry.”
The bill, supported by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and fellow Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden (OR) and Cory Booker (NJ), would clear marijuana, eliminate marijuana-related criminal records, allow incarcerated persons to file a resubmission, and establish social equity cannabis grant programs funded by a new federal cannabis tax. The proposal would also allow some states to continue to ban cannabis but would not allow those states to criminalize the transport of cannabis across their borders if it were targeted at legal markets.
“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.
Previously, in 2015, Murthy appeared to be open-minded about about the possibility that cannabis could be beneficial as a treatment for various conditions. said there is “preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful.”
Vivek Hallegere Murthy is an American physician and a vice admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Murthy is the first surgeon general of Indian descent, and, during his first term as surgeon general.
In April 2020 he published a book about what both society and ordinary people as individuals, can do to reduce loneliness in themselves and others, entitled Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.