Lets find out if marijuana belongs on the Pharmacy shelf

Let’s find out if marijuana belongs on the Pharmacy shelf

By Kenneth Wolski
From The Times (of Trenton, New Jersey)
Published Monday, 11 June, 2007 on Page A13

Recently, I met a woman who told me that she grew up in the 1960s. She Said she never smoked marijuana, though most of her friends did. She Believed the government’s warnings that any use of marijuana could be harmful. She believed the government when it said that even if marijuana did no harm in the short term, there were potential dangers associated with its long-term use. The woman said that she now looks at her friends who have smoked marijuana continuously since the 1960s and she notices that they are all much healthier than she is. She wonders if her own health today would not be better if she had ignored the government’s warnings, as her friends have done. We may never know, because the government refuses to test the long-term effects of marijuana. The government refuses to allow practically any independent clinical research of marijuana to be conducted anywhere in the United States.

What if the long-term effects of marijuana were, in fact, beneficial, As this woman suggests, rather than harmful? What if, as current worldwide research suggests, marijuana protects the human body against glaucoma, protects it against certain types of tumors, protects it against neurological diseases, and is a much safer alternative to prescription pain relievers, mood altering drugs and self-medication with alcoholic beverages? Wouldn’t this mean that not only this woman, but also millions of Americans have suffered needlessly because the government has spread misinformation about marijuana and then blocked any research that could disprove the misinformation?

The federal government has a monopoly on the supply of legal marijuana, and it has a death grip on that monopoly. There is only one farm in the U.S. where marijuana is legally grown–at the University of Mississippi. It is nearly impossible to get marijuana from this tightly controlled farm, even to conduct reputable studies by universities and hospitals. Professor Lyle Craker from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is suing the federal government to allow him to grow an independent supply of pharmaceutical-grade marijuana to be used in clinical trials. These clinical trials have been approved by the university and by the Food and Drug Administration, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been blocking the trials for more than five years. On February 12, Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner issued a ruling in favor of Professor Craker. She said that he should be allowed to grow marijuana because the government’s supply is “inadequate.” The DEA is appealing Judge Bittner’s ruling. The DEA does not intend to allow a single exception to its monopoly on marijuana production. The DEA will probably be successful in its appeal because the final decision in the case rests with—you guessed it—the DEA. What a country.

The DEA overturned a 1988 ruling that went against its marijuana monopoly. The DEA refused to hold hearings for 14 years on whether marijuana should be rescheduled so that doctors could prescribe it. Finally, after being taken to court three times, the DEA began hearings in 1986 that lasted for two years. The US Department of Justice DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young gave the decision on Sept. 6, 1988. He said: “The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and during so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasoning, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between these sufferers and the benefit of this substance in light of the evidence in this record…Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” Judge Young’s decision was overturned by the DEA. Don’t let this happen to Professor Craker. Call your lawmakers in Washington, D.C., today and Insist that Judge Bittner’s ruling be upheld.

The federal government’s record on marijuana research is shameful. There is only one federal study being done, and it has been closed to new Applicants since 1992. There are five patients still involved in this Investigational new drug, or IND, study. Irv Rosenfeld, a patient with a painful and potentially deadly congenital disease, is one of the patients in this IND study. Every month, the federal government sends Irv 300 marijuana cigarettes—government rolled joints. Irv can smoke 10 joints a day and has been legally doing so for more than 20 years. In all that time, the federal government never once studied Irv to see how he’s doing. It fell to a private organization, Patients Out of Time, to gather Irv and the other patients together and study them. They subjected these patients to IQ tests, psychological exams, X-rays, lab work, MRIs, pulmonary function tests, etc. Except for minor pulmonary changes, which they attribute to the poor quality of the federal government’s marijuana, they are all doing fine. Their conditions are under control and marijuana is the only medicine they are using. Irv swears that marijuana alone has allowed him to live a pain-free, productive life, despite his serious medical condition.

Maybe the woman I met who grew up in the 1960s is right. Maybe long-term marijuana use—all other things being equal—can add years of health and happiness to the lives of millions of Americans. We’ll never know for sure until we can do the research.


Kenneth Wolski is executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. He is a green party candidate running for a seat in the New Jersey Assembly from the 15th District.

Back to MAPS in the Media

Kenneth Wolski, MD, published a strong op-ed in The Times (of Trenton, NJ) that focuses on the federal government’s obstruction of medical marijuana research and the recent DEA Judge’s ruling in favor of a MAPS-sponsored medical marijuana production facility that would be the prerequisite for putting marijuana through FDA clinical trials to determine whether it can be developed into a legal, precsripction medicine.