Pubdate: Fri, 21 Aug 2009
Source: DrugSense Weekly (DSW)
Section: Feature Article
Author: Bruce Mirken


In a piece published [1] here last week, Rachel Ehrenfeld reports 
with dismay that the National Institute on Drug Abuse is presently 
soliciting proposals from contractors to grow marijuana for research 
and other purposes.  Unfortunately, Ehrenfeld's misunderstanding of 
this request for proposals is so monumental that one doesn't know 
whether to laugh or cry.

Ehrenfeld suggests that this is some sinister part of "ObamaCare." 
"For the first time," she writes, "the government is soliciting 
organizations that can grow marijuana on a 'large scale,' with the 
capability to 'prepare marijuana cigarettes and related products ... 
distribute marijuana, marijuana cigarettes and cannabinoids, and 
other related products' not only for research, but also for 'other 
government programs.'"

Ehrenfeld spends several paragraphs explaining how this is all the 
evil brainchild of George Soros, the pet villain of prohibitionists. 
After all, "Since when is the U.S. government in the business of 
distributing marijuana cigarettes?"

Since 1978, actually.  The federal government has been distributing 
medical marijuana to a small group of patients for more than [2] 
three decades via a program known as an IND (for "investigational new 
drug").  This program has been covered in the media from [3] time to 
time, and still exists, although it was closed to new enrolment by 
President George H.W. Bush in 1992. It's not exactly a state secret.

In addition, under present (thoroughly dysfunctional) rules, 
scientists doing clinical research on marijuana must obtain the 
marijuana for testing [4] from NIDA. Since the 1970s, the government 
has contracted with the University of Mississippi to produce 
marijuana for this purpose, and all expectations are that the 
university will get the contract again.  In other words, there is 
nothing new here.

Having completely misconstrued NIDA's request for proposals as 
something new and sinister, Ehrenfeld proceeds with a selective, 
wildly distorted description of research on medical marijuana, 
claiming, "The evidence about the harm caused by marijuana to the 
individual user and society is overwhelming."

In fact, there is a wealth of research that documents marijuana's 
medical [5] efficacy and safety, and a vast array of medical and 
public health organizations that have recognized marijuana's [6] 
medical potential.

For the record, let's consider a bit of what's been said about 
medical marijuana by organizations that are presumably not part of 
the Evil Soros Conspiracy.  Bear in mind that this is just a tiny 
sampling of the material that's available from respected medical organizations.

. From the 124,000-member [7] American College of Physicians:

"Given marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and 
its relatively low toxicity, reclassification [out of Schedule I of 
the federal Controlled Substances Act] would reduce barriers to 
research and increase availability of cannabinoid drugs to patients 
who have failed to respond to other treatments. ...

"Evidence not only supports the use of medical marijuana in certain 
conditions but also suggests numerous indications for cannabinoids."

. From the [8] American Nurses Association:

"There is a growing body of evidence that marijuana has a significant 
margin of safety when used under a practitioner's supervision when 
all of the patient's medications can be considered in the therapeutic 
regimen. ...

"There is significant research that demonstrates a connection between 
therapeutic use of marijuana/cannabis and symptom relief. The 
American Nurses Association actively supports patients' rights to 
legally and safely access marijuana/cannabis for symptom management 
and to promote quality of life for patients needing such an 
alternative to conventional therapy."

. From the Lymphoma Foundation of America, HIV Medicine Association 
of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and others (in a [9] 
brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court):

"For certain persons the medical use of marijuana can literally mean 
the difference between life and death.  At a minimum, marijuana 
provides some seriously ill patients the gift of relative health and 
the ability to function as productive members of society."

And finally, from a study of smoked marijuana as a treatment for 
HIV-related nerve pain, published in the February 13, 2007, issue of 
the journal [10] Neurology:

"The first cannabis cigarette reduced chronic pain by a median of 72% 
vs. 15% with placebo ...  No serious adverse events were reported. 
Conclusion: Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively 
relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy."

Marijuana has been used as a medicine for some 5,000 years--maybe 
longer, actually, but written records only go back that far. In the 
world of scientific reality--not to be confused with the BizarroWorld 
inhabited by certain prohibition ideologues--it is both effective at 
treating a number of troubling symptoms and safer than the 
pharmaceuticals taken by millions of patients every day. Indeed, as a 
"recreational" substance it's vastly safer than booze. But it's much 
easier to imagine conspiracies run by billionaires with 
foreign-sounding names than it is to read and understand the actual research.

This article first appeared at Bruce Mirken, a longtime 
health writer, serves as director of communications for the [11] 
Marijuana Policy Project.












- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake