Truth and medical marijuana
Published February 24, 2007
in the Chicago Tribune
Medical marijuana has had a lot of successes. Eleven states have legalized the therapeutic use of cannabis for people whose doctors think they can benefit from it. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the right of physicians to recommend pot to their patients. A 1999 report by the federal government’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded, “Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC, for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation.”
But elsewhere, medical marijuana has stalled. Most states still don’t allow it, and even in those that do, federal laws still ban the possession of cannabis. That means sick people who need marijuana for symptoms that don’t respond to approved drugs must either do without or risk going to jail. Despite the IOM’s call for more research, studies have been few and far between. As a result, the therapeutic value of cannabis remains largely unknown and untapped.
Recently, there were a couple of advances that may help to erode the federal government’s stubborn resistance. The first was a study in the journal Neurology that found smoking pot can relieve pain–including a condition found in AIDS victims that is often impervious to other pain drugs, even powerful opiates. Said Donald Abrams, a physician and professor at the University of California, San Francisco, “There is a measurable medical benefit to smoking cannabis for these patients.”But such research is hard to come by. That’s because the federal government is the only legal source of marijuana for clinical studies, and its monopoly presents some serious problems.
One is that it often rejects applications by scientists seeking supplies for their research. Another is that those who do get the stuff find its quality to be unreliable. By contrast, the government allows licensed private laboratories to supply such drugs as heroin and cocaine for scientific investigations.
An administrative law judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration recently ruled that a professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst should be allowed to grow marijuana in a licensed facility. Judge Mary Ellen Bittner found that some reputable scientists have been denied access to the government’s supply and that providing an alternative source “would be in the public interest.”
Whether that decision will actually change anything remains to be seen, since the DEA has the option of rejecting her recommendation. That would be a shame. If the government is so sure that marijuana has no medical value, it should welcome this sort of research. If it refuses to facilitate such studies, it must fear knowing the truth.
MAPS and medical marijuana advocates won a major victory against the federal government on February 12, as the DEA’s administrative law judge ruled on behalf of Professor Lyle Craker, who is attempting to break the government’s 65-year monopoly on marijuana research by establishing a MAPS-sponsored research-grade marijuana production facility at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. News of the lawsuit victory was covered by more than 100 media outlets, and most of the top media outlets across the country have repoorted on and editorialized about MAPS’ historic legal triumph over the DEA.
One of the best quotes comes from an editorial in the Chicago Tribune that says, “If the government is so sure that marijuana has no medical value, it should welcome this sort of research. If it refuses to facilitate such studies, it must fear knowing the truth.”
Here are some more of the articles that we have archived over the past couple weeks:
Truth and Medical Marijuana
St. Petersburg Times:
DEA stymies science
Judge: Let prof grow medicinal marijuana
San Francisco Chronicle:
Judge sides with botanist on pot supply
McClatchey News newswire article, which was carried in The Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury-News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and others:
Judge rules government supply of marijuana is inadequate
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal:
Ole Miss may get competition in growing marijuana
Marijuana Research a New Field at UMass?
Bay Area Reporter:
Judge tells DEA to issue license to grow pot for research
Reefer Madness: Judge Supports Bid to Grow Research Pot