Pubdate: Mon, 12 Mar 2001
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2001 The Seattle Times Company
Contact:  P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA   98111
Fax: (206) 382-6760
Author: Teri Sforza The Orange County Register
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


SANTA ANA, Calif. - The University of California is beginning clinical 
investigations into marijuana as medicine, hoping to end the roiling 
controversy over its medical usefulness once and for all.

"It's very exciting, a first in the country," said Drew Mattison, 
co-director of the new Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San 
Diego. Last month, the center announced the first of $3 million in research 
grants. Researchers at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco will examine 
marijuana's effect on HIV-related pain, spasticity from multiple sclerosis, 
and the driving abilities of patients with AIDS and MS.

The studies should start enrolling patients in April or May. Patients who 
want to take part can add their names to a waiting list.

Medical-marijuana activists laud the studies but don't plan to join them. 
"I'm glad they're going in the right direction," said Marvin Chavez, 
director of the Orange County Patient, Doctor, Nurse Support Group Cannabis 
Co-op. "But from my point of view, it's a waste of taxpayers' money. We 
don't need a study. We're living testimony that it works."

The new research center is the product of a bill introduced by state Sen. 
John Vasconcellos, who has been trying to make Proposition 215 - 
California's medical-marijuana law - work for years. Vasconcellos hopes the 
center's research will prove what other studies have shown: that the active 
ingredient in marijuana helps spur appetite and deaden pain.

Proposition 215 has been trapped between state and federal drug laws since 
it passed in 1996. While it gave patients in California the right to grow 
and use marijuana for a variety of illnesses with a doctor's approval, 
federal drug law still classifies marijuana alongside heroin and LSD, drugs 
with no medical use.

Study results will be reported to the Legislature and the governor to help 
them decide how to implement Proposition 215. The research is not only 
supposed to help California with this task, it will help the eight other 
states that have approved medical marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, 
Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Proposition 215 didn't address how the drug would be distributed or how the 
state would keep track of who was allowed to use it. In most of the other 
states, including Washington, patient registries were written into the law. 
Such registries make it easy for law enforcement to separate real patients 
from lawbreakers.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry F