Top Federal Drug Official’s Real Thoughts on Marijuana

Top Federal Official Marijuana
Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), has expressed a need for a more balanced evaluation of cannabis use, citing a lack of evidence for health issues related to occasional use. She acknowledges potential health benefits, such as lower body mass index (BMI), and calls for further research into the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use, particularly in relation to BMI levels in aging individuals. Volkow also criticizes current policies and societal views that contribute to the stigmatization of cannabis, arguing that this hinders scientific research and reform. She emphasizes the need for increased awareness, acceptance, and research to overcome systemic barriers and better understand the use of cannabis in society.
Table of Contents

In a recent interview with FiveThirtyEight, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Nora Volkow, expressed views that shed new light on the need for testing in certain areas of cannabis use.

The NIDA & Marijuana

Historically, the NIDA has supported the belief that regular use of marijuana can have detrimental effects on a person’s health and wellness. In a new interview, however, Volkow’s views clearly indicate that cannabis now needs to be evaluated in a more balanced way.

One standout reason cited by the NIDA director is that cannabis-related health benefits such as lower body mass index (BMI) are helping people live healthier lives. Another critical point stressed by Volkow was that:

[There is] no evidence [to my knowledge] that occasional [adult] marijuana use has harmful effects.

Volkow goes on to say that more testing and research is needed in order to learn more about the potential risks and health benefits of cannabis use, particularly in relation to BMI levels in aging individuals. As research has suggested that regular cannabis use leads to lower BMI levels, some health risks related to high BMI levels may be avoided through cannabis use.

While none of Volkow’s comments were strictly pro-cannabis, they were not against it either. Instead, she seems to have a balanced, scientific opinion on the topic of marijuana use among adult users and sees the need to further the science related to it.

In an article published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Volkow also stated that there are limitations within our society concerning how cannabis is viewed and treated. According to Volkow:

[G]overnment policies, including criminal justice measures, often reflect — and contribute to — stigma.

As such, reforms in policymaking and the treatment of cannabis may need to be changed.

Many of today’s policies surrounding marijuana create a negative stigma — a situation that has both slowed the progress of research and exacerbated certain problems associated with substance abuse and criminal rehabilitation programs.

Volkow argues that because of such stigma, policymakers and members of law enforcement often view substance use and abuse through a similar lens. Instead of looking at cannabis use as a potentially positive factor in the country’s public health efforts, they “regard it as something shameful, reflecting lack of character, weakness of will, or even conscious wrongdoing.”

This stigma makes it difficult to create reform based on science that might actually help us understand the medicinal benefits (and potential risks) to using cannabis on a regular basis.

Volkow believes that we still have a lot of work to do regarding awareness, acceptance, and research where certain drugs are concerned. Because of the negative stigmas connected to the use of cannabis, many systemic barriers still exist to learning about cannabis and how we can use it within our society. By changing these policies, we can take significant steps towards bringing medical marijuana into a more productive mode of research than what now exists.

Certainly, Dr. Nora Volkow’s admission that there is no currently available research to suggest that occasional cannabis use is harmful to adults is a step forward.

Updated: May 28, 2024

Article Written By:

Benjamin Wright

Leveraging his many years of experience in the writing field, Benjamin strives to provide articles covering complex topics in a way that is easy to understand and down to earth. In addition to his work researching and writing, Benjamin is also an educator, focusing primarily on university readiness and international study.


Questions about medical marijuana? Ready to get your card and purchase legal cannabis products? CannaMD‘s state-certified network of medical marijuana doctors are here to help! Contact CannaMD‘s experienced team at (855) 420-9170 today. You can also find out if you qualify for medical marijuana treatment with our quick online application!

Find Out If You Qualify

You may be eligible for medical marijuana!

To stay up-to-date with the latest studies and legal regulations surrounding medical marijuana treatment, be sure to follow CannaMD on Facebook and sign up for our newsletter, below!

Join 100k+ Subscribers!

Get updates on more posts like this!

Related PostS

Feedback from our readers is very important and helps us provide quality articles. Please don’t be shy, leave a comment.

If you have a topic you would like us to cover in our blog or you are interested in writing guest posts please contact us for more information.

Get a medical marijuana certification