President Joseph Biden isn’t a big fan of broad, comprehensive cannabis reform. Even though plenty of Democrats and even some Republicans have thrown their weight behind broad legalization, Biden favors decriminalizing cannabis, legalizing medical cannabis, and giving states the freedom to craft their own marijuana policies. This has been a bone of contention for many lawmakers, especially those from the left, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that he would advance broad federal legalization with or without the president. A recent move by Biden may be a sign of his preference for medical cannabis.
On Friday, Biden announced that he has nominated a new Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) commissioner who, coincidentally, has acknowledged that cannabis has medical potential and has even prescribed a cannabinoid-based drug as a physician. A cardiologist by trade, Robert Califf served as the 22nd FDA commissioner from February 2016 to January 2017 after President Barack Obama nominated him in 2015. Prior to that, he had been serving as the deputy commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Medical Products and Tobacco. He was hired by Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company) in 2019 as the head of Medical Strategy and Policy.
Califf is a tenured professor of cardiology at the Duke University School of Medicine, and he is the founding director of what is said to be the largest academic research organization on the globe, the Duke Clinical Research Institute. While he hasn’t been very vocal about cannabis, he made his views on the subject known during a 2016 cannabis research summit hosted by the federal government. He acknowledged that the controversial plant has several medical applications and said that the FDA was interested in advancing cannabis research and development.
He mentioned the treatment of epilepsy, AIDS wasting, cancer, neuropathic pain, spasticity, multiple sclerosis, and cancer as well as chemotherapy-induced nausea as some of the possible uses of cannabis and cannabinoid-infused products. Furthermore, he stated that he had prescribed cannabis-related treatments to patients afflicted with wasting cachectic syndrome due to extreme heart failure in his cardiology practice. Even though the FDA may not have found that cannabis can be a safe and effective treatment, he said at the time thatit doesn’t mean the drug has zero good uses. Califf added that we need additional studies to learn more about marijuana’s possible risks and benefits.
In 2019, he authored an op-ed advocating for strict regulation of vapes and the ban of flavored vape products to reduce the risks of lung disease in the wake of the 2019 vape lung illness outbreak. He later said that an outright ban on all vape products would be impractical and that prohibition would perpetuate a stigma that would keep addicts from seeking treatment.
If Califf takes office as FDA commissioner, there is hope that he will be less hostile to the products made by cannabis companies such as Hero Technologies Inc. (OTC: HENC) since he has some experience with the therapeutic potential of marijuana products.
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