Source: Lancet, The (UK)
Contact:  The Lancet Ltd
Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jan 1999
Author: Rachelle H B Fishman
Volume 353, Number 9150


On Jan 20, the Israeli Health Ministry established a committee to provide
doctors with guidelines for prescribing marijuana. Until now marijuana may
only be given by special permit with the drug being provided by the police
from confiscated supplies.

Boaz Lev, an internist and the ministry's deputy director-general for
medical affairs, has asked the six-member committee of physicians, jurists,
and public officials to define the medical conditions under which
physicians will be permitted to prescribe marijuana, rather than continue
on an ad hoc basis. "We want to establish the general guidelines and the
optimum mechanism to provide marijuana to those who need it, but also to
supervise distribution so the drug is not abused for non-medicinal use."

Marijuana can provide relief from severe chronic pain, muscular spasms,
nausea, and loss of appetite caused, for example, by chemotherapy or AIDS.
But Lev says "we don't want people to have to break the law to get
treatment when no other drug is effective". Possession or trade in even the
smallest quantities of the drug in Israel is punishable by a jail sentence.

Calls for a committee to examine the medicinal use of marijuana have been
made in the last few years. In 1995, at a meeting held at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem Rafi Mechoulam, a pharmacologist and a pioneer in
marijuana research, suggested that an expert committee should look at the
medicinal properties of the drug.

Earlier this year, a Knesset subcommittee, chaired by MK Naomi Chazan
(Meretz) strongly recommended the Health Ministry establish an expert
group. The committee also suggested that the safety and efficacy of the
drug be tested in clinical trials. Chazan made it clear that "we do not
expect the drug to be widely prescribed, and want to make it clear that it
is being considered as a totally different issue from whether it should be
legalized or decriminalized" the committee said.

No change in the general policy about marijuana use is planned or expected.

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MAP posted-by: Joel W. Johnson