Pubdate: Fri, 21 Apr 2006
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2006 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Gardiner Harris, New York Times News Service
Note: The FDA Statement is at
Cited: The Institute of Medicine report
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Walters, John)


WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration declared Thursday that 
"no sound scientific studies" support the medical use of smoked marijuana.

The statement contradicts a 1999 review by top government scientists.

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

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

Eleven states have legalized medicinal uses of marijuana, but the 
Drug Enforcement Administration and the nation's drug czar, John 
Walters, have opposed those efforts. A Supreme Court decision last 
year allowed the federal government to arrest anyone using marijuana, 
even in states that have legalized its use.

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

Souder said he believes efforts to legalize medicinal uses of 
marijuana are "a front" for attempts to legalize all uses of 
marijuana, said Martin Green, a spokesman for Souder.

Tom Riley, a Walters spokesman, said the FDA statement would end "the 
bizarre public discussion" that has led 11 states to legalize use of the drug.

The agency's statement contradicts a 1999 review by the Institute of 
Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences. That review found 
marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, 
such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting 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 statement and the review by other agencies were wrong.

The federal government "loves to ignore our report," said Benson, a 
professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Some scientists and legislators said the agency's statement about 
marijuana shows that politics are trumping science.

"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.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), who has sponsored legislation seeking 
to allow medicinal uses of marijuana, said the statement reflected 
the influence of the DEA, which he said had long pressured the FDA to 
help fight marijuana use. A DEA spokeswoman referred questions to 
Walters' office. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake