Current Issues

Physicians have both a right and a duty to be skeptical about therapeutic claims for any substance, but only after putting aside fears and doubts connected with the stigma of illicit non-medical drug use. Advocates of medical use of marihuana are sometimes charged with using medicine as a wedge to open a way for recreational use. The accusation is false as applied to its target, but expresses in a distorted form a truth about some opponents of medical marihuana: they will not admit that it can be a safe and effective medicine largely because they are tubbornly committed to exaggerating its dangers when used for non-medical purposes. In 1972 the National Organization for the Reform of Marihuana Laws petitioned the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, later renamed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to transfer marihuana to Schedule II so that it could be legally prescribed. As the proceedings continued, other parties joined, including the Physicians Association for AIDS [acquired immunodeficiency syndrome] Care. It was only in 1986, after many years of legal maneuvering, that the DEA acceded to the demand for the public hearings required by law. During the hearings, which lasted 2 years, many patients and physicians testified and thousands of pages of documentation were introduced. In 1988 the DEA's own administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, declared that marihuana in its natural form fulfilled the legal requirement of currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. He added that it was one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. His order that the marihuana plant be transferred to Schedule II was overruled, not by any medical authority, but by the DEA itself, which issued a final rejection of all pleas for reclassification in March 1992. Meanwhile, a few patients have been able to obtain marihuana legally for therapeutic purposes. Since 1978, legislation permitting patients with certain disorders to use marihuana with a physician's approval has been enacted in 36 states. Although federal regulations and procedures made the laws difficult to implement, 10 states eventually established formal marihuana research programs to seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for Investigational New Drug (IND) applications. These programs were later abandoned, mainly because the bureaucratic burden on physicians and patients became intolerable.

Texas A&M University Botany 201 Notes

Stedmanís Medical Dictionary , Cannabis, 25th edition. Williams and Wilkins 1990.

The Lindesmith Center (www. soros.org/lindesmith/tlcjama.html)

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