By Steve Elliott
Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, 82, who served a short-lived tenure with President Bill Clinton, built a reputation for being willing to speak openly about medicinal uses for marijuana. On Saturday morning, Elders opened the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco with a ringing condemnation of America's drug enforcement policies.
Elders called for an end to the federal policy which classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical uses, reports Peter Hecht at The Sacramento Bee. That officially makes weed worse than meth or cocaine, according to the federal government.
The former Surgeon General called for increased federal marijuana research, and decriminalization of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, heralding a shift from a law enforcement approach to a public health approach.
"We know that prohibition laws did nothing but waste money, waste lives and destroy opportunities," said Elder. "It is not working. And marijuana has been the engine driving the drug war."
Elders spoke at length on the medical benefits of marijuana for pain and nausea, and called for more studies on whether "one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world" could also offer benefits to those suffering from ailments such as shingles and emotional disorders.
She urged more research -- "a health-centered approach for looking at drugs" -- instead of more law enforcement.