06/10/2005: Not a Review from Cheech and Chong...
Excellent Op-Ed piece by the Editorial Board of the Chicago Tribune: Marijuana as Medicine.
”The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government is fully within its rights to override state laws and prosecute patients who use marijuana for medical purposes. The question now is: Why does it bother?
Once upon a time, the idea of smoking pot to treat an illness may have sounded like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie. But no one is laughing anymore. Over the last two decades, a growing body of evidence has vindicated the value of cannabis for a variety of serious conditions, with minimal risk.
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the federal National Academy of Sciences, commissioned a thorough evaluation of all the data available on the subject and found that "nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety ... all can be mitigated by marijuana." The New England Journal of Medicine supports allowing medical use of cannabis, arguing that "a federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."
After the Supreme Court ruling, John Walters, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, waxed triumphant, asserting that "science and research have not determined that smoking a crude plant is safe or effective." He's misrepresenting the research--and he neglects to mention that the federal government makes it extremely difficult for scientists to do studies that might yield better data.
The public is open to a different approach. Ten states have passed laws that effectively protect patients using pot for therapeutic needs, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Another 20 have measures on the books endorsing medical marijuana. According to a 2002 Time/CNN poll, 80 percent of Americans favor the idea.
Yet the federal government has refused to budge--going so far as to send federal agents to destroy plants grown by patients and their caregivers in California, which has legalized medical marijuana. That's how Monday's Supreme Court decision came about. But even as the court upheld the right of the federal government to prosecute such cases, it made plain its doubts about the wisdom of the policy.
Maybe this verdict will finally force Congress to recognize the urgent need for change. Currently, the federal government classifies pot as a Schedule I drug--a designation reserved for substances with serious potential for abuse and no therapeutic value. Drugs of this kind may not be prescribed by physicians. Marijuana's inclusion is absurd, considering that doctors are allowed to prescribe morphine and cocaine.
Even the DEA's chief administrative law judge ruled in 1988 in favor of reclassifying cannabis. "Marijuana in its natural form is one of the saf-est therapeutically active substances known to man," he wrote. "It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between [patients] and the benefits of this substance." But the DEA refused.
Some members of Congress have had enough. Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) plan to introduce a measure to forbid the Justice Department from going after patients using pot in states where it is permitted. That would be a good first step.
One president after another, and one drug czar after another, has insisted on treating pot as intolerable for any reason. The policy is an embarrassment based on misinformation and blind ideology. It's time Congress demanded a change.”
Karen on 06.10.05 @ 10:59 AM CST