Here's What Joe Biden's FDA Pick Said About Cannabinoids

Damir Mujezinovic

President Joe BIden announced on Friday that he intends to nominate Robert Califf for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner.

As soon as the Democrat made the announcement, cannabis advocates began researching Califf to see what his stances on marijuana are.

Biden, for his part, has repeatedly made it clear that he would never legalize cannabis, despite overwhelming and bipartisan support for such a policy.

So where does Califf stand on cannabinoids, and would he be open to supporting some form of legalization as the head of the FDA?

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As Marijuana Movement reported, Califf once said that he prescribed a cannabinoid drug as a doctor, which many saw as an encouraging sign.

Califf spoke extensively about the potential medicinal values of the plant at a 2016 research summit, when he noted that "we understand that people have identified a number of possible uses of marijuana and marijuana-derived products."

"For example, AIDS wasting, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea. And I had the chance to prescribe some of this in my cardiology practice," he said.

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Robert Califf On Cannabis

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Califf also said at the summit that it remains unclear if botanical marijuana is "safe and effective for any indication," but noted that some evidence suggests that it is, and called for more research into the matter.

"What this means is that no one has demonstrated to FDA that any such product is safe or effective for the treatment of any disease or condition. To change that we need studies conducted using marijuana to rigorously assess the safety and effectiveness of marijuana for medical use," Califf explained.

Additional Research Necessary

Califf stressed how imperative it is to research the substance before a decision is made, and pointed out that the FDA has already approved synthetic cannabis products like Marinol for the treatment of anorexia.

"We believe this process, which includes collaboration with other federal and state agencies, researchers and manufacturers working on issues related to the use of cannabidiol and other constituents of marijuana in the U.S. remains the best way to identify new treatments that are safe and effective for patients and to protect patients from products that are not what they purport to be," he said.

Drug Industry Ties

Califf's 2016 remarks suggest that he "wouldn’t be hostile toward attempts to explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis," according to Marijuana Movement.

However, as The New York Times reported, Califf also has deep ties to the drug industry.

Califf was head of the FDA during former President Barack Obama's last year in office, but he has also worked as a consultant to drug companies and his research at Duke University received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

If Dr. Califf is confirmed by the evenly-split Senate, he will run an agency that is responsible for more than $2.8 trillion worth of food, medical products, and tobacco.

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