Gov. Corbett endorses weed? No, but here’s how he could


Have you heard? Tom Corbett (kind of, almost, vaguely, but not really) endorsed weed!

Yep. The guy who once called marijuana the “most addictive gateway drug” apparently now believed—according to his spokesman—that if the Food and Drug Administration said there were appropriate uses for medical pot, he’d be open to take that “into consideration.”

“If in fact the FDA does deem there are appropriate and medical uses, that is something that the governor would obviously take into consideration,” Corbett’s spokesperson, Jay Pagni, told the Harrisburg Patriot News.

Pagni added: “He’d be open to direction and the FDA is the agency for that direction…It’s the one body that would determine if [medical marijuana] is appropriate, if it does have a beneficial use, and he would look to the experts on that.” Yeah!

Then, in a separate interview with the Inquirer, Pagni denied the governor had gone soft. Corbett was still staunchly against legalizing the plant for patients who need it, and would veto any bill of the sort that came to his desk. Corbett is relying on the federal government, rather, to tell him what to do when the time comes.

So, feds give the OK, Corbett is open to discussion. Got it. But what are the odds the FDA approves medical pot—and gives Corbett the political cover to come around—any time soon? Not good. Just check out this Q&A between me and some research as to why:

How could we get the federal government to weigh in on weed?

It’d have to first conduct clinical trials and conclude there are are medical purposes for the plant.

Why haven’t they conducted those trials?

They sort of can’t. The FDA can’t conduct clinical trials on marijuana, because it’s classified as a Schedule 1 banned substance. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, making distribution of marijuana a federal offense.”

To make things just that much weirder, since the Schedule I ban is in effect, doctors aren’t really allowed to write “prescriptions” for pot, according to the NCSL. Rather, they often write “referrals” or “recommendations.”

Weird! So, how to get the drug taken off the banned substance list?

Well, the presidential administration would have to do that.

And why haven’t they?

That’s unclear. Especially since so many states have found medicinal uses over the past few years. In 2011, U.S. Congressman Steven Cohen (D-TN) wrote a letter to the Obama Administration Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske calling upon them to support changing the status as a Schedule I prohibited drug.

“We should not deny the thousands of Americans who rely on the benefits that marijuana provides,” he wrote. “There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine and should not be treated as such.”

Then Kerlikowske responded, essentially saying the feds were on board and, despite common knowledge, allow pot research. Which is sort of true, but not at the federal level. The Obama Administration has allowed less than 20 researchers in the U.S. to assess the effects of cannabis on humans. But there’s hope: Clinical trial approval was given in December 2013 for a cannabidiol-based drug that would treat epilepsy in children. Cannabidiol is a nonpsychoactive component of cannabis.

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