Pubdate: Mon, 15 Aug 2016
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2016 New Haven Register


The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has just issued a helpful 
reminder to all Americans. In denying a petition to loosen 
restrictions on marijuana, the agency repeated that the drug has "no 
currently accepted medical use" in the U.S.

This may come as a surprise, given that 25 states already allow 
doctors to prescribe marijuana to treat maladies from PTSD to 
Alzheimer's disease. Yet the truth is, research has yet to find firm 
evidence that marijuana can alleviate physical suffering.

That the political push for medicinal marijuana has gotten so far 
ahead of science explains why marijuana is still properly classified 
as a Schedule I controlled substance. It's also why the Obama 
administration, in other big recent marijuana news, was right to 
enable more medical studies of the drug by increasing the supply 
available to researchers.

Marijuana's unearned reputation as a therapeutic drug is partly an 
outgrowth of its contradictory legal status in the U.S. Federal law 
forbids the possession, use and sale of marijuana for any reason. 
States wanting to get around this prohibition have found it most 
publicly acceptable to allow limited use, and have latched on to 
claims that pot can help treat various ailments - for example, the 
nausea caused by chemotherapy; pain and muscle spasms from multiple 
sclerosis; epilepsy; Crohn's disease; and glaucoma.

Still, the science behind such claims is, at best, preliminary. And 
too little is known about marijuana's potential side effects on 
bronchial and cardiac health, fetal and teenage brain development 
and, of course, addiction.

Doctors in states that have legalized medicinal marijuana have 
essentially been left on their own to figure out how to respond to 
patient requests. Just this week, the Federation of State Medical 
Boards issued guidelines, which, in the absence of data on 
marijuana's usefulness, are by necessity limited. Doctors are advised 
to keep accurate records, to avoid prescribing marijuana to people 
with substance abuse disorders, to "discuss the risks and benefits," 
and to remind patients not to operate heavy machinery while under the 
influence. That's sound advice, but applicable to just about ... anything.

Marijuana research studies are properly controlled and monitored by 
both the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration. But they have also 
been limited more than necessary by a DEA rule that has authorized 
only the University of Mississippi to grow marijuana for research 
purposes. Other universities will now be licensed to grow marijuana, 
and that is expected to greatly expand the supply available for research.

Marijuana is already widely used as medicine in the U.S. The more 
studies that can get underway, the sooner a confused public can learn 
with some empirical certainty whether its spread is for good or ill, 
and the sooner the science can catch up to the politics.

Editorial courtesy of Bloomberg View.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom