“We don’t know what we don’t know,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said during his testimony at Wednesday’s Senate hearing titled “Marijuana and America’s Health: Questions and Issues for Policy Makers.”
This was a curious statement coming from someone who, during the same session, continued to reference research data on synthetic cannabinoids and isolated compounds as a reliable predictor of full-spectrum product effects on brain development.
“I’ll be the first to admit we need to know more,” Adams said as he quoted his recent advisory nearly verbatim. “But I want you to hear this: We know enough now to deliver sound guidance to protect the future of our nation’s youth.”
But do we?
The hearing, convened by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, was led by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and included testimony from the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, as well as a panel of renowned university researchers.
While Feinstein acknowledged the complexity of the plant in her opening remarks and noted that she has personally witnessed the medical benefits of cannabis in the lives of family members, the underlying tone of the conversation remained one of consequence, not benefit.
Senator Cornyn went so far as to compare the implications of cannabis advocacy to the mid-century health claims of tobacco both during the hearing and in a Senate floor speech on Tuesday preceding the caucus session:
“There’s no shortage of people who claim that marijuana has endless health benefits and can help patients struggling from everything from epilepsy to anxiety to cancer treatments,” he said. “This reminds me of some of the advertising we saw from the tobacco industry years ago where they actually claimed public health benefits from smoking tobacco, which we know as a matter of fact were false and that tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive drug, and is implicated with cancers of different kinds.”
Regardless of the prohibitory emphasis on negative outcomes throughout the committee hearing, the consensus was one of hope: that the Schedule-I status of cannabis must be lifted if we are to more fully understand how purchasable products and realistic dosing affect consumer health outcomes.
This message comes on top of recent legislation introduced by Senator Feinstein to expand cannabis research as well as an increase in funding from the National Institute of Health for nine new studies on minor cannabinoids and