Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jul 2011
Source: San Francisco Bay Times (CA)
Copyright: 2011 San Francisco Bay Times
Author: Dennis McMillan


On July 11, the White House, with little fanfare, issued its annual
(and long overdue) 2011 National Drug Control Strategy Report. "As
usual, the White House's official justification for the ongoing
multigenerational drug war was light on facts and heavy on rhetoric,
particularly as it pertained to the federal government's fixation with
criminalizing cannabis," said Paul Armentano, NORML (National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Deputy Director.

And after nine years of regulatory delay, the Drug Enforcement
Administration has rejected a petition by a coalition of groups
including California NORML to reschedule marijuana for medical use.
The response came only after advocates sued in federal court for
unreasonable delay. The petition, filed in 2002 by the Cannabis
Rescheduling Coalition, cited a growing body of scientific evidence
plus the approval of medical marijuana in several states as grounds
that marijuana qualifies as having "accepted medical use" and should
be removed from Schedule One, which includes heroin and other
nonmedical drugs.

The DEA countered that none of the evidence was valid since it did not
meet the standard of FDA new drug application trials. The DEA cited a
five-year old Department of Health and Human Services paper claiming
that marijuana did not have medical use. While referencing innumerable
studies showing potential health risks of marijuana, it failed to
reference any of the hundreds of studies showing medical efficacy of
marijuana on the grounds that they did not meet the standard of
well-controlled, large-scale, double blind FDA approval trials.
However, none of the negative evidence cited by the government met
that standard either.

The DEA failed to mention that it has deliberately obstructed FDA
trials from taking place by denying the approval of a research-grade
marijuana growing facility at the University of Massachusetts,
contrary to the recommendation of its own administrative law judge.
The only existing legal source of marijuana for U.S. researchers is
the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has stated that it will
not pursue FDA studies of the drug for medical use.

"The government has created a Catch-22 situation, in which the DEA is
free to ignore mounting scientific evidence and the experience of
countless physicians and users who have found medical marijuana
effective, in order to protect its bureaucratic position," said
California NORML director Dale Gieringer, who helped author the
rescheduling petition. "The government's response raises serious
questions about its competence to manage Americans' health care."

Gieringer pointed out that surveys have shown that patients who use
medical marijuana can dramatically reduce their use of other, more
costly but less effective FDA-approved prescription drugs. "Yet DEA
drug bureaucrats are deliberately ignoring these facts so as to
protect their bloated agency," Gieringer said.

Advocates are now planning how to challenge the DEA decision. Medical
marijuana advocates are supporting a bill by Representative Barney
Frank (D-MA), the State's Medical Marijuana Protection Act of 2011(HR
1983), which would end marijuana's Schedule One status and let states
regulate its medical availability.

Under a policy recently reaffirmed by the Obama administration, the
federal government has arrested, charged, threatened, and/or
imprisoned hundreds of individuals in states with legal medical
marijuana for violating federal laws. California NORML is calling on
Congress to investigate the DEA's malfeasance with regards to medical
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