Pubdate: Fri, 23 July 1999
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Orange County Register
Section: Local News,page 8


Federal "drug czar" Gen.Barry McCaffrey has seen fit to insert himself into
the debate over SB 848,introduced by San Jose Democratic Sen. John
Vasconcellos to implement Proposition 215, California's medical marijuana
initiative. But the general's statement, issued on Tuesday, is so rife with
inaccuracies, including selective citations of the Institute of Medicine
report his office commissioned, that it is difficult to take it seriously.

Prop. 215 is now Section 11362.5 of California's Health and Safety Code -
and it hasn't been challenged in court.

That point is especially relevant in light of a comment by Gen. McCaffrey in
his statement that "Should S.B. 848 be approved by the California
Legislature, marijuana would continue to be a Schedule I substance and would
still be illegal under federal law to cultivate, possess or use."

California initiatives are routinely challenged in court within hours of
being passed. Gen. McCaffrey's office could have gone to court to invalidate
Prop. 215. He did not. No one has.

In the only legal test of federal supremacy in this matter, Gen. McCaffrey's
office threatened to arrest California physicians who recommended marijuana.

A federal court, responding to an action brought by the California Medical
Association and others, issued an order forbidding federal agents from doing
any such thing.

In his statement Tuesday, Gen McCaffrey claimed: "SB 848 ignores the
findings of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM)
REPORT 'Marijuana and Medicine.'

"That report concluded," Gen. McCaffrey said, "that 'although marijuana
smoke delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, it also delivers
harmful substances, including most of those in tobacco smoke. In addition,
plants ... cannot be expected to provide a precisely defined drug effect.
For those reasons, there is little future in smoked marijuana as a

This selective citation is especially cynical. As Sen. Vasconcellos noted in
a press release responding to Gen. McCaffrey, in almost the next sentence
the IOM report states: "Until a non-smoked, rapid-onset ... delivery system
becomes available, we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for
people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking
marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting."

Gen. McCaffrey also ignored another finding of the report. The Institute of
Medicine says there's no scientific basis for the "stepping stone" theory -
that chemical properties of marijuana lead to use of other drugs.

Instead, the IOM report talks about a "gateway theory," but characterizes
this as "a social theory. The latter does not suggest that the
pharmacological qualities of marijuana make it a risk factor for progression
to other drug use. Instead it is the legal status of marijuana that makes it
a gateway drug."

Thus, the Institute of Medicine suggests that what makes marijuana
potentially dangerous in terms of leading to use of more dangerous drugs is
the very fact that it is illegal.

Gen. McCaffrey also insisted that "Continued strict regulation of cannabis
as a Schedule 1 drug is essential."

Here again he is on shaky ground. The IOM report clearly shows that
marijuana does not meet the criteria established by federal law for Schedule
1 - drugs uniquely subject to abuse with no known medical use.

There's another matter, as former gubernatorial candidate and medical
marijuana patient (and defendant) Steve Kubby reminded us. Whatever Gen.
McCaffrey says about the inflexibility of federal law, eight patients have
been certified as having a medical need and are receiving seven pounds a
year of marijuana, free, from the federal government.

Gen McCaffrey hasn't tried to deprive these patients of their supply. If
they can use marijuana legally under federal law, why can't patients in

A statement from gubernatorial spokesman Mike Bustamante last week indicated
that Gov. Gray Davis is inclined to veto SB 848 if it passes because it
conflicts with federal law.

Gov. Davis should be reminded that he wasn't elected to enforce federal law
but to enforce California law.

The voters of this and five other states have told the government that while
they may not want to legalize marijuana for recreational use, they want it
to be made available for medical use.

When will the government get the message?

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MAP posted-by: Don Beck