Several congressional lawmakers pressed a top federal drug official on Wednesday about their concerns over marijuana legalization, though they seemed to signal that they view the reform as inevitable.
Members of the House Appropriations subcommittee for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies directed several cannabis questions at National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow. Lawmakers also talked about the therapeutic potential of kratom, as well as broader drug decriminalization issues.
Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK) broadly asked Volkow about any “problems” she’s focused on with respect to cannabis legalization. But while he signaled he’s opposed to the reform, the congressman also said the “horse is already out of the barn probably” as more states adopt legalization and Congress moves to end federal prohibition.
Volkow, the NIDA director, replied by going through familiar talking points, noting that adult marijuana use has increased, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic. While Volkow previously talked about how she’s surprised that federal surveys have shown stable underage marijuana use, she said at the hearing that she remains concerned about trends related to cannabis consumption by pregnant women and stressed that THC can impact cognitive development in adolescents.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) echoed the Republican ranking member’s concerns, saying she was particularly worried about reported increases in accidental ingestion of marijuana by children.
The congresswoman, who voted in favor of a bill to federally legalize cannabis last month, said she hopes that “at some point as Congress considers legalization across the nation” that NIDA can provide “some guidance on safeguards into that legislation if, in fact, that does happen.”
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a staunch opponent of legalization, also took the opportunity to address cannabis issues at the hearing. Specifically, he referenced a recent notice from NIH that called for studies into how marijuana and its constituents affect cancer and cancer treatment.
“Dr. Volkow, is this ready, shoot, aim?” Harris asked. “I mean, we’re basically approving a medicine because—as you said ‘so-called medical marijuana’—around the country without having done these studies yet.”
While the congressman phrased it as an actual question to the health official, he clarified that it was meant to be “rhetorical” and was simply making a point that he doesn’t believe that there’s sufficient research on the issue.
The hearing also touched on other aspects of drug policy outside of marijuana. For example, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) …….