Cornyn Discusses Public Health Effects of Marijuana at Drug Caucus Hearing


In: All News   Posted 10/24/2019
Share:

‘Despite growing acceptance and accessibility of this drug and its derivatives, I believe we lack definitive evidence on the short and long term health implications of marijuana use. That’s especially true for vulnerable populations like adolescents, pregnant women, and people suffering from mental health issues.’

‘It’s critical for people like Senator Feinstein and I and other policymakers to understand the public safety implications of increased marijuana use before we dive in to the admittedly complex and difficult job of changing federal policy.’

‘There are so many questions that still need to be answered.’

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control John Cornyn (R-TX) held a hearing yesterday to discuss public health questions and issues surrounding marijuana. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s opening remarks are below, and video can be found here.

“I’d first like to begin this hearing by thanking our witnesses, and thanks to my co-chair, Senator Feinstein. We’ve been looking for a forum to have a hearing like this. As in so many areas, it seems like we’re putting the cart ahead of the horse, and now we’d really like to hear from the experts about what they can tell us about the public health consequences of marijuana use in the country.”

“So far this year, we’ve centered our efforts on prevention of addictive substances from entering the country and infiltrating our communities, but now we want to talk about something a little different.”

“As you know, a 2018 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that an estimated 43.5 million Americans used marijuana in the last year. The percentage of the population 12 years of age and older currently using marijuana has increased in recent years from under seven percent in 2010 to more than ten percent in 2018.”

“And while marijuana is still a prohibited drug under federal law, more than 90 percent of the states allow for some medical use of marijuana in some capacity, and ten states and the District of Columbia now allow for the recreational use of marijuana.”

“Despite growing acceptance and accessibility of this drug and its derivatives, I believe we lack definitive evidence on the short and long term health implications of marijuana use. That’s especially true for vulnerable populations like adolescents, pregnant women, and people suffering from mental health issues.”

“Earlier this year, our Surgeon General, one of our witnesses here today, issued an advisory that highlighted the risks of marijuana use for pregnant and nursing women and adolescents.”

“I remain concerned about the lack of evidence regarding health risks of these groups as well as the general population, and it may be helpful at some point for the witnesses to discuss what type of evidence that the medical community considers conclusive or at least solid enough to make a policy determination on, because there seems to be a lot of folk myths and other idiosyncratic ideas that really haven’t gone through the sort of peer review and publishing requirements that most scientific evidence has to go through in order to be accepted by policymakers.”

“In 2017, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published one of the most comprehensive studies on the research of the health effects of recreational and therapeutic use of marijuana and cannabis-derived products. It included nearly a hundred conclusions.”

“They found conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids, but not necessarily marijuana or marijuana-derived cannabinoids, are an effective treatment for chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and vomiting.”

“However, they found insufficient or no evidence regarding potential therapeutic effects of cannabis or cannabinoids for a variety of health conditions considered.”

“Additionally, they found substantial evidence that marijuana use can increase the risk of motor vehicle crashes, the development of schizophrenia and other psychoses, and complications in pregnancy like lower birth weight.”

“It’s critical for people like Senator Feinstein and I and other policymakers to understand the public safety implications of increased marijuana use before we dive in to the admittedly complex and difficult job of changing federal policy.”

“In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug with an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy. It was only after rigorous studies and a thorough review by the FDA that physicians can have confidence in the safety, efficacy, and consistency of that drug.”

“All this is to say that there are so many questions that still need to be answered.”

“The Surgeon General, Dr. Volkow, and the experts on our second panel will help shed light on what science tells us about the public health risks of marijuana and what we still need to learn.”

“I look forward to hearing the testimony and discussing how we can work to prevent youth access to marijuana and properly evaluate the safety and efficacy of any therapies that may utilize marijuana and cannabinoids.”