“I was fired as surgeon general for saying we need to study it.” Thus is the tale of former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders who worked in the Clinton administration for a brief period. Elders is referring to marijuana, which then even moreso than now was deemed an evil and illicit drug. Her statement, made Friday night, was during a reception for the International Cannabis Business Conference.
Part of her contentious tenure in the CLinton years came from her advocacy in legalizing drugs and possibly using marijuana as a medicinal aid during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Her remarks lambasted the current state of the war on drugs, with high scorn for marijuana as a Schedule I drug. This places it higher on the list than both methamphetamine and cocaine while declaring there is no medical use at all.
Elders spoke passionately about the disparity of arrests and the lack of progress in the War on Drugs. “We know that prohibition laws did nothing but waste money, waste lives and destroy opportunities. It is not working. And marijuana has been the engine driving the drug war.”
Along with decriminalization, she also pushed for more research, including on the brains of young children and the impact of marijuana.
Though many people agree with her now, over twenty years ago, in 1994, she was forced to resign at the behest of the administration for many of her views, which included not understanding why marijuana wasn’t included as a medically viable option ““The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS – or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them,” she was quoted as saying. “And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”
She also angered pro-life conservatives by arguing for the country to look forward, “We really need to get out of this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about the children.”
As for today, Elders says that progress comes slowly, “I think we are beginning to open our eyes. It just takes a lot of time. Often I said politicians are slow learners.”
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