Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2006
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2006 The Register-Guard
Author: Gardiner Harris, New York Times
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)

FDA Joins Opponents of Medicinal Pot

WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that "no
sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana,
contradicting a 1999 review by a panel of highly regarded scientists.

The announcement inserts the health agency into yet another fierce
political fight.

Susan Bro, an agency spokeswoman, said the statement resulted from a
past combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and
research agencies that concluded that "smoked marijuana has no
currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is
not an approved medical treatment." She said the FDA was issuing the
statement because of numerous inquiries from Capitol Hill but would
likely do nothing to enforce it.

"Any enforcement would need to be by DEA, since this falls outside of
FDA's regulatory authority," she said.

Eleven states, including Oregon, have legalized medicinal uses of
marijuana, but the Drug Enforcement Administration and the nation's
drug czar, John Walters, have opposed those efforts.

Congressional opponents and supporters of medical marijuana have each
tried to enlist the FDA to support their views. Rep. Mark Souder,
R-Ind., an opponent of medical marijuana initiatives, proposed
legislation two years ago that would have required the FDA to issue an
opinion on the medicinal properties of the drug.

The FDA statement contradicts a 1999 review by the Institute of
Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's
most prestigious scientific evaluative agency. That review found
marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions,
such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and AIDS wasting."

Dr. John Benson, co-chairman of the Institute of Medicine committee
that examined the research into marijuana's effects, said in an
interview that the FDA statement and the combined review by other
agencies were wrong. The federal government "loves to ignore our
report," Benson said.

Some scientists and legislators said the FDA statement about marijuana
demonstrates that politics is trumping science there.

"Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the FDA making
pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than by
science," said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor at Harvard Medical School. 
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