The medical use of marijuana

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Bush administration's appeal against a ruling that protects the medical use of marijuana in California from federal prosecution. The hearing is set down for October of this year with a final ruling by June of 2005.

Some Medical Marijuana facts

The medical use of marijuana enjoys wide public support. More than 70% of respondents to recent surveys agree that marijuana should be available medically. Sources: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates. Feb. 14-19, 2001 and The Gallup Poll. March 19-21, 1999.

Marijuana is safe. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young stated in his 1988 ruling, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known. [The] provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance.” Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration. In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition. (September 6, 1988) Docket #86-22. p. 57.

Marijuana can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Approved by approved voter initiative in 1998, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act allows for the use of marijuana to treat cancer, glaucoma, AIDS/HIV, cachexia, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures (epilepsy), and persistent muscle spasms (Multiple Sclerosis). Currently, more than 300 Oregon physicians participate in this program. A blue ribbon panel of physicians, nurses, and patients appointed to review new indications added agitation from Alzheimer’s Disease to this list in July 2000. Source: Oregon Department of Human Services, Medical Marijuana Program.

Smoked marijuana is effective. Evaluation of controlled studies conducted in six different U.S. states indicates that smoked marijuana is 70-100% effective in controlling the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and substantially outperformed the synthetic THC capsule (Marinol®) and other commonly prescribed antiemetics. Source: Musty, Richard E. and Rita Rossi. “Effects of Smoked Cannabis and Oral D9 –Tetrahydrocannabinol on Nausea and Emesis after Cancer Chemotherapy: A Review of State Clinical Trials.” Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics (2001): Vol. 1, p. 29.

Marijuana is not a “gateway” drug. According to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, “There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone [to other drugs of abuse] on the basis of its particular physiological effect…It does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse.” Source: Joy, Janet E., Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A. Benson, Jr. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base for the Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, Institute of Medicine. (Washington DC: National Academy Press, 1999), Chapter 3, pp. 98-100.

Medical groups support marijuana. Numerous prestigious medical organizations support access to medical marijuana. These include American Academy of Family Physicians, American Preventive Medical Association, American Public Health Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, Lymphoma Foundation of America, National Association of People with AIDS, National Women’s Health Network, and the New England Journal of Medicine. Source: Patients out of Time.

Marijuana should be made available to sick people. As Tennessee State Senator Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) put it, “If people need pain relief, then they ought to have anything that God has provided on this earth to help.” Source: Editorial, “Testing Medical Marijuana Urged,” Chattanooga (Tennessee) Times & Free Press, April 12, 2001.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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