Pubdate: Tue, 29 Dec 2015
Source: Des Moines Register (IA)
Copyright: 2015 The Des Moines Register


Sen. Chuck Grassley is no fan of legalizing marijuana. He has 
criticized the Obama administration for not enforcing federal drug 
laws and opposed reclassifying marijuana, which could make it easier 
to use as a medicine. The Republican senator has repeatedly said 
studies suggest the drug may cause long-term brain damage in young people.

But Grassley acknowledges an extract of the plant may help people 
with severe epilepsy and other illnesses. As chairman of the 
Judiciary Committee and the Caucus on International Narcotics 
Control, he has been among the lawmakers pushing federal agencies to 
remove barriers to research exploring the risks and benefits of 
cannabidiol. Last week he announced that the Drug Enforcement Agency 
agreed to ease regulatory requirements for those conducting 
government-approved clinical trials.

"Removing more barriers will help allow scientists to determine its 
potential medicinal value. Right now, parents who are desperate to 
help their children live in uncertainty about cannabidiol. Federal 
agencies should do whatever they responsibly can to help research 
proceed so these families can get answers."

Americans certainly do need answers. The use of marijuana as medicine 
is currently a free-for-all. State lawmakers, public opinion polls 
and voter referendums have become the deciding factors for whether 
the drug is available. Legally obtaining it depends on where a 
patient lives. That is not how medical treatment is supposed to work 
in this country.

Marijuana and its components should be subjected to the same study 
and regulation as other prescription drugs. That is the job of the 
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The importance of oversight from 
this agency cannot be underestimated. The FDA helps ensure drugs are 
safe and effective. It requires scientific studies and issues 
guidelines for use. Approved drugs are subjected to manufacturing 
standards to ensure consistency. Doctors can prescribe them and 
pharmacists are trained to answer questions about them. Health 
insurance generally covers legitimate treatments. Side effects and 
adverse events can be reported to gather information about safety over time.

None of this formally exists for marijuana.

Yet Iowans with severe epilepsy can now legally possess cannabis oil 
extract, thanks to the Iowa Legislature. The drug cannot be 
manufactured in this state. Patients and their families, contingent 
on approval from the state, must travel elsewhere to get it, pay for 
it out of pocket and potentially break federal laws transporting it 
home. Then they experiment with dosages and consult Internet chat 
rooms with questions about side effects. It is a legal and medical mess.

Marijuana contains hundreds of different chemical compounds, making 
it difficult to know which one or which combination may be 
alleviating symptoms. More targeted, scientific studies of the drug 
are needed. The federal government should do all it can to make those 
studies possible.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom