Is banning menthol cigarettes a gateway to legalizing marijuana? One Republican lawmaker recently took to the Senate floor to express his “fears” that could be the case.
In a speech on Thursday, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) complained about Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to prohibit the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes, which the agency claims will deter youth cigarette use. The senator, who represents the largest tobacco producing state in the country, characterized the policy as government overreach and potentially a “bait-and-switch” move preceding the end of cannabis prohibition.
What if, like, it’s all a conspiracy…man?
“This is eerily similar to Canada a few years ago when they banned menthol products,” Burr said. “How did they follow that up? This year, they legalized cannabis. Maybe that is the route we are on.”
While stressing that he’s not necessarily “accusing the administration of having that pathway” the senator noted that FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s actions to date do “raise suspicion.”
“It is not the administration of reduced regulation and onerous government when you see what the FDA is proposing to a legal consumer product,” he said of the moves to further restrict tobacco. That stands in contrast, the North Carolina senator said, with recent FDA statements on marijuana-related products.
“I will state that the commissioner announced not long ago that they were beginning to review products that were derived from cannabis—oils and other things that they thought they could safely approve for use in the United States,” he said.
“Well, Mr. Commissioner, you are only fueling my fears that you are following the roadmap Canada followed—that this is all a bait-and-switch situation.”
Watch the first part of Burr’s cannabis comments below:
“We put up with it with states that have legalized it,” Burr said, adding that he’s “not sure it is a good move for adults, and I am not sure it is a good move for our youth.”
Cannabis has “the same combustable concerns we have with tobacco products,” he claimed, the only difference being that one is federally legal and the other is not. “We have agreed that if you are over 18, you can choose to use it—with an extensive educational campaign to tell everybody why it is harmful to their health.”
Gottlieb is taking a restrictive stance on tobacco to “prove” that he “can overreach and not be slapped,” the GOP lawmaker postulated.
“Somewhere down the road you may come to the same conclusion Canada did: Rather than enforce cannabis and illegal drugs, let’s just approve them,” he said. “Let’s make them legal.”
“Boy, that is a sad day. It is shocking to me as one who has been engaged in this debate for now 25 years.”
Watch the second part of Burr’s cannabis comments below:
In an email to Marijuana Moment, an FDA spokesperson declined to comment on the senator’s remarks.
During the lengthy floor speech, Burr went on to argue that marijuana is more lightly regulated than cigarettes, which in some respects is effectively true because the federal government doesn’t provide guidelines to the cannabis industry since its product is still prohibited.
“There are no filters on it,” he said. “There are no regulations on the paper that is used, even though it is legal in some states.”
“As a matter of fact, we have less research on cannabis in this country than any legal product that exists, including bandaids.”
Issuing a stark warning to Gottlieb over “the insane world you have created,” Burr said the FDA commissioner should “expect Congress to weigh in.”
“Understand that if you begin to loosen up the legal use of cannabis,” he cautioned, “then we are going to hold you to the same standards you display for everyone else—everything that you hold a drug manufacturer to, that you hold a drug device manufacturer to, and, quite honestly, that you hold the tobacco industry to.”
“Don’t think you are going to slide this by and there are not going to be regulations or that we are going to adopt a Canada model or we are going to continue letting states do what they are doing,” Burr threatened.
This isn’t the first time the tobacco state senator has raised the cannabis-menthol conspiracy. He made similar remarks on the floor last month.
In the latest oratory, Burr pledged to continue calling attention to his concerns through even longer speeches moving forward.