TIME Drugs

People Want DEA Chief to Resign After He Called Medical Marijuana ‘a Joke’

Marijuana leaf on a white background
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Protestors point to scientific studies that show the medicinal benefits of marijuana on patients suffering from chronic pain

Medical marijuana patients want to see the DEA chief go up in smoke. After agency head Chuck Rosenberg called medical marijuana “a joke” during a Q&A with reporters last week, over 10,000 people have signed a petition on change.org demanding his resignation.

“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal because it’s not,” Rosenberg said, according to CBS. “We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine — that is a joke.”

“There are pieces of marijuana — extracts or constituents or component parts — that have great promise,” he said. “But if you talk about smoking the leaf of marijuana — which is what people are talking about when they talk about medicinal marijuana — it has never been shown to be safe or effective as a medicine.”

Angry medical marijuana users have pointed to studies that have found the drug is effective at treating pain and muscle spasms. A meta-analysis of 79 medical marijuana studies that involved over 6,000 patients published in the Journal of the American Medical Association earlier this year discovered “moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity.”

Many doctors have opted to prescribe marijuana over prescription painkillers that can be extremely addictive and deadly. In 2013, 16,000 people overdosed on painkillers, according to the CDC. Other studies have found that the availability of medical marijuana correlates with a reduction in pain killer abuse rates.

But some research has linked adolescent marijuana use to cognitive deficiencies, though it’s unclear whether the relationship is cause and effect.

Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana. It is still illegal under federal law.

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