After Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the Drug Enforcement Administration called medical marijuana “a joke,” medical marijuana patients are calling for his head. An online petition seeking his resignation has attracted more than 10,000 signatures on change.org, the Washington Post reports. Rosenberg’s argument that smoking marijuana “has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine” has been contradicted by many studies. A meta-analysis of 79 medical marijuana studies involving 6,462 patients published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this year found “moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity.” The finding that marijuana is effective at treating chronic pain is a big deal, the Post says. High-caliber prescription painkillers are highly addictive and potentially deadly when misused. They killed 16,000 people via overdoses in 2013. Studies have found that at the state level, the availability of medical marijuana is associated with a significant reduction of painkiller abuse rates and overdose deaths, presumably as patients opt to treat their pain with marijuana rather than painkillers.
“My mom is a legal patient in Rhode Island, and she uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain she experiences from multiple sclerosis,” said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, which started the petition. A DEA spokesperson sought to clarify Rosenberg’s remarks, saying he “indicated that marijuana should be subject to the same levels of approval and scrutiny as any other substance intended for use as a medicine. DEA supports efforts to research potential medical uses of marijuana. To this end, DEA has never denied a registration request from anyone conducting marijuana research using FDA approved protocols.” DEA added that, “His comments reflected the fact that FDA has not approved any medicinal uses for smoked marijuana.”