Pubdate: Wed, 15 Jan 1997
Source: City Pages Minneapolis-St. Paul,mn
Author: Paul M. Bischke

To the Editor:

In considering research only after launching a federal attack on medical
marijuana patients and their doctors, drug czar Barry McCaffrey has
embraced the macho maxim "shoot first, ask questions later."

Gen. McCaffrey isn't the first drug warrior to target doctors. The first
major drug prohibition law, the Harrison Act, originally allowed doctors to
dispense maintenance narcotics doses to addicts. Around 1920, a
re-interpretation of the law forbade this common practice, leading to
35,000 arrests and 6000 jailings of doctors. When police oversee health
care, unseemly things happen.

Will the government give medical marijuana a fair evaluation? The National
Academy of Sciences is certainly above reproach. But, in the past, the
government has prohibited research that might exonerate marijuana as a
medicine because of its commitment to exaggerating the dangers non-medical
use. For the sake of suffering patients, these issues should not be mixed.

To get a fair scientific evaluation, medical marijuana is not only up
against drug warriors, but also, it faces the hostility toward herbal
medicine often expressed by the FDA and its pharmaceutical industry pals.
Perhaps the needed medical marijuana research should be done by a neutral
but scientifically sophisticated country, like Switzerland or perhaps
Germany, which has a superior method of evaluating herbal medicines and has
no stake in America's War on Drugs.

Paul M. Bischke
Co-Director, Drug Policy Reform Group
St. Paul, Minnesota