Pubdate: Fri, 24 Nov 2000
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Contact:  PO Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191
Fax: (619) 293-1440


Results Could Help Guide Prop. 215 Implementation

SAN MATEO (AP) -- The federal Drug Enforcement Administration approved a 
program Wednesday that will allow San Mateo County to give away 
government-grown marijuana to 60 AIDS patients in a study to assess the 
potential benefits of the drug.

The 12-week study could begin in January. One county supervisor hailed its 

"What we could end up with is scientific proof that this is a medicine that 
should be prescribed by doctors," said San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin.

In 1996, Californians passed Proposition 215, which allows possession, 
cultivation and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Implementation of 
the measure has proved difficult, however, as lawmakers struggle to agree 
on guidelines for prescribing and distributing the drug.

In addition to DEA approval, San Mateo's marijuana study had to pass muster 
with the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes 
of Drug Abuse and the Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Dennis Israelski will oversee the study, in which marijuana will be 
given to HIV and AIDS patients who suffer from neurological disorders.

Those in favor of the study hope that it will provide new insight into 
marijuana and determine whether it relieves pain and increases appetites as 
many users claim. Dr. Donald Abrams of the University of California San 
Francisco recently concluded a study of medical marijuana and found that 20 
AIDS patients who smoked the drug for three weeks gained 7.7 pounds more 
than 22 others who smoked a placebo.

Believers in marijuana's benefits say the drug settles the stomach, builds 
weight and steadies spastic muscles. They also speak of relief from 
premenstrual syndrome, glaucoma, itching, insomnia, arthritis, depression, 
childbirth and attention deficit disorder.

Participants in San Mateo County's study will get their supply from the San 
Mateo County Health Center. If the study is successful, follow-up trials 
for cancer and glaucoma patients would likely follow.

"We hope this is just a beginning," said Margaret Taylor, the county's 
health services director.

Supervisor Nevin opposes decriminalizing marijuana, but said the medicinal 
value needs further evaluation.

"To disallow the drug to people who need it is a crime," Nevin said.
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