During a press conference on opioids at an Ohio inpatient facility that treats newborns suffering from prenatal drug exposure, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, “There really is no such thing as medical marijuana“. The statement came on the heels of questions about the viability of medical cannabis as an alternative to opioid painkillers. So while Ohio is preparing to launch its legal medical cannabis program, Health Secretary Alex Azar denies existence of medical marijuana.
Health Secretary Alex Azar Denies Existence Of Medical Marijuana
Bridge’s Path is an inpatient facility in Kettering, Ohio. Physicians there treat newborns diagnosed with prenatal drug exposure. And increasingly, newborns are suffering from prenatal exposure to opioids.
Deaths from prescription and illicit opioid abuse have skyrocketed in recent years. Today, opioids are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
Last October, President Trump decried the opioid epidemic as a National Public Health Emergency. But critics blasted the move as largely symbolic.
More recently, reports have surfaced that Trump frequently expresses a desire to execute every drug dealer in America.
Those close to the president qualified his statements as meaning large-volume drug traffickers pedaling synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
During the press conference at Bridge’s Path, Trump’s health chief described the funding the government is devoting to combating the opioid crisis.
“We are devoting hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of research at our National Institutes of Health as part of the historic $13 billion opioid and serious mental illness program that the president and Congress are funding,” Azar said.
Azar went on to describe how “over $750 million just in 2019 alone is going to be dedicated towards the National Institutes of Health working in public-private partnership to try and develop the next generation of pain therapies that are not opioids.”
Yet when asked what role he sees medical marijuana playing as a next-generation alternative to opioids, Azar had this to say.
“There is no FDA-approved use of marijuana, a botanical plant. I just want to be very clear about that.”
Alex Azar, Former Big Pharma Exec, Says Cannabis Has No Medical Value
When Azar says there’s “is no FDA-approved” use of marijuana, he’s correct in a purely technical sense. Indeed, the federal government still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug.
But that is not the same thing as saying “there really is no such thing as medical marijuana”.
Multiple studies and countless patient testimonies provide a strong for the safety and effectiveness of cannabis as a pain reliever. At the very least, the data calls for further study, not outright dismissals.
But a quick survey of Alex Azar’s résumé might reveal why the former Big Pharma executive is taking such a baffling stance against medical cannabis.
Azar represents exactly the kind of revolving door from lobbying firms to public office that Trump promised he would put an end to with his “drain the swamp” campaign platform.
Azar was US Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services for George W. Bush before becoming President of Eli Lilly and Company, a major pharmaceutical firm, from 2012 to 2017.
During that time, Azar also served on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a large pharmaceutical lobby.
So it’s safe to assume the “public-private” partnerships Azar mentioned in the Kettering press conference would benefit drug companies like Eli Lilly.
Multiple investigations have documented the aggressive anti-cannabis lobbying of the major pharmaceutical companies. Put simply, legal medical cannabis represents a major threat to drug company profits and their grip on the industry.
And Azar’s completely unfounded claim that there is no such thing as medical marijuana is a transparent indication of the conflicts of interest shaping federal drug policy and the government’s response to the opioid crisis.
Former Big Pharma Lobbyist Turned Health Secretary Alex Azar Denies Existence Of Medical Marijuana
So when Trump’s Health Secretary Alex Azar denies existence of medical marijuana, it’s not because he’s ignorant of the facts.
It’s because Azar is beholden to the special interests of Big Pharma, not the well-being of the American public.