Pubdate: Wed, 17 Mar 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.
Author: Michael Miller 


LOS ANGELES,  - White House anti-drug czar Barry McCaffrey
said on Wednesday that marijuana would
remain on the government's list of illegal drugs despite a report
saying smoking it could be beneficial to certain patients.

The report on the medical uses of marijuana by the independent
Institute of Medicine (IOM) said smoking marijuana should not
generally be recommended for long-term medical use.

But it added, "Nonetheless, for certain patients such as the
terminally ill or those with debilitating symptoms, the long-term
risks are not of great concern."

The report was commissioned the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, which McCaffrey heads, but speaking at a news conference in
Los Angeles, where he was meeting with local youth leaders, he was
adamant that the federal government would not relax its policy on the
drug, even for medical reasons.

"Smokable marijuana is not the answer," McCaffrey said, adding the
federal government would continue to arrest those smoking marijuana
for medical reasons, including people in the seven states where voter
initiatives have made its medical use legal.

But he welcomed the report, which he said took the discussion over the
medical use of marijuana away from politicians and put it "firmly in
the context of science, where it belongs."

McCaffrey said while cannabinoids held no promise of cure, they could
be useful in pain management, which he said was a much neglected field
in modern medicine.

"Everyone is looking for a cure these days and pain is seen as a sort
of blurry background. There needs to be more pain management," he said.

McCaffrey said the government would continue to support bona fide
research into medical uses for marijuana, and he called for more
research into delivering THC, one of the medically beneficial
ingredients of marijuana that has been isolated by scientists.

"In particular, I would support deep-lung delivery vehicles such as
aerosols," he said. He also supported controlled delivery by patches
similar to those used to deliver nicotine.

On a cautionary note, McCaffrey highlighted the report's finding that
developing pain killing drugs from marijuana could cost between $200
million and $300 million and said he did not think there was "any
commercial interest in the (pharmaceutical) market for the development
of such drugs."
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