FDA chief Gottlieb worries about teens using marijuana


David A. Grogan | CNBC

Scott Gottlieb, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, speaking at the CNBC Healthy Returns Conference in New York on March 28th, 2018.

Marijuana legalization is making pot look safe to use and easier for teens to get, and that worries Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

“I’m worried about the inhalation of a product and the risks associated with that. I’m worried about the perception that somehow there’s no risks associated with youth use of the product,” Gottlieb said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday.

Previous studies have looked at the risks of occasional marijuana use, but regular use is increasingly common as it’s legalized, he said. “I think that’s going to create a different set of risks,” he said.

The rising popularity of weed among adults appears to be filtering down to younger generations. Nearly one-quarter of teens are now using pot and fewer students disapprove of the drug, according to the annual “Monitoring the Future” survey conducted by the University of Michigan. The number of high school students to see “great risk” in marijuana used dropped to 14.1 percent last year from 17.1 percent in 2016, according to the report.

“I think we all need to be deeply concerned about that in the same way we’re deeply concerned about youth access to e-cigarettes and nicotine,” Gottlieb said. “We should be even more concerned about youth access to marijuana and cannabis.”

His comments come just over a week after he called teen e-cigarette use an “epidemic” and threatened to pull e-cigarettes from shelves if manufacturers do not control teen use. The agency is specifically ordering five brands — Juul, British American Tobacco‘s Vuse, Altria‘s MarkTen, Imperial Brands‘ Blu E-cigs and Japan Tobacco‘s Logic — to submit plans within 60 days detailing how they will prevent teens from using their products.

Additionally, the agency is investigating whether manufacturers’ online shops are being used for “straw” purchases, where buyers resell products to minors. If the FDA identifies problems, it can take both civil and criminal actions. It also warned more than 1,300 retailers for illegally selling e-cigarettes to minors.

The 2017 Michigan report indicates that teen marijuana use could continue to grow as more states legalize the drug, according to the study’s authors.

Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and National Institutes of Health, the study provides the most comprehensive look at drug use among young adults in the U.S.

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