HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Former Federal Drug Policy Official Warns Of Marijuana
Pubdate: Wed, 09 Feb 2005
Source: Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Copyright: 2005 Belleville News-Democrat
Author: Jennifer A. Bowen
Cited: Office of National Drug Control Policy ( )
Cited: Marijuana Policy Project ( )
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Andrea Barthwell)


Illinois Lawmakers Considering Medicinal Bill

While Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill to legalize marijuana for 
medicinal purposes, a former member of the White House Office of National 
Drug Control Policy was in Belleville on Tuesday to warn about the dangers 
of marijuana.

The medicinal marijuana bill was introduced into the Illinois General 
Assembly in Springfield last month.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Andrea Barthwell, the former White House 
official, met with drug-use prevention experts in Belleville.

Barthwell, who is touring 18 Illinois cities, opposes legalization of 
marijuana, even for medicinal purposes.

If marijuana use is legalized, she's concerned about the risks posed to 
children. She warns that legalizing it in any form would increase the work 
of law enforcement and drug dependency counselors.

"This has absolutely no relationship to what's going on in Springfield," 
Barthwell said. "We aren't paying attention to the agenda of what other 
people are doing, but I believe if we had done this (lecture series) five 
or six years ago, the climate in Springfield today would be much different."

One of the issues Barthwell addressed is the change of potency in marijuana 
over the past 30 years. She said increased potency has caused a rise in 

According to Barthwell, the potency of THC, the chemical in marijuana that 
induces a high, has gone up significantly over the years and its quality 
cannot be controlled, even under a physician's guidance for medical use.

"If there were compelling scientific and medical data supporting 
marijuana's medical benefits that would be one thing," Barthwell said. "But 
the data is not there. The claim of one individual who has used marijuana 
does not medical data make. Marijuana has not gone through the test of 
science because it is a botanical and it doesn't have the same effect on 
every individual."

Bruce Mirken of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, 
disagrees with Barthwell. He supports the legalization bill sponsored by 
Illinois State Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago. McKeon has battled HIV for 20 

"She is just not living in the real world on this issue," Mirken said. "A 
lot of things she talks about are blatantly not true, especially when it 
comes to medical marijuana. There is precisely zero medical evidence that 
higher THC levels in marijuana causes more dependence. As far as potency 
goes, there is an average of 7 percent THC potency in medical marijuana in 
the United States. That's less than half the minimum potency standards set 
by the government in the Netherlands for medical marijuana sold in 
pharmacies in the Netherlands."

According to the University of Mississippi Potency Monitoring Project, the 
average potency of marijuana in the United States has increased little over 
the past 30 years. In 1985, the average THC content of commercial grade 
marijuana was 2.84 percent. In 1995, the potency averaged 3.73 percent and 
by 2001, the potency averaged 4.72 percent. Medical marijuana typically has 
a slightly higher THC potency as indicated by Mirken.

"Barthwell is spreading so many falsehoods that this begins to look like a 
'marijuana disinformation tour,'" McKeon said. "She regularly claims that 
medical marijuana is a 'hoax' foisted upon us by some cabal of 'legalizers' 
who are exploiting patients. As a person living with AIDS, who has spent a 
lot of time discussing this issue with doctors, nurses and fellow patients, 
I know that's false and I am personally insulted by this smear campaign."

House Bill 0407, currently under review by the House Human Services 
Committee, would allow people with a debilitating illness to legally 
possess no more than 12 marijuana plants and carry 2 1/2 ounces of 
marijuana. A similar bill is in the Senate.

Illinois already has a law allowing licensed physicians to research the 
medicinal use of marijuana and protects participants from prosecution.

Ten states now have laws to protect medical marijuana patients. The most 
recent was passed in Montana in November.

"Marijuana helps many people with HIV and AIDS by easing their nausea, 
boosting their appetite and helping them stay on their medications," McKeon 
said. "I've seen medical marijuana help others and know that many 
physicians recommend it. I don't know if I will ever need medical 
marijuana, but no one battling a life-threatening illness should face 
arrest and jail for simply trying to stay alive."

Some studies have shown that marijuana reduces nausea from cancer 
chemotherapy, stimulates appetites in AIDS patients and reduces pressure in 
the eye in people with glaucoma.

Barthwell said she is compassionate to patients with AIDS, cancer and 
glaucoma but cannot support the legalization of a drug that does more harm 
than good. She said there are several drugs available and approved by the 
FDA that can provide similar effects to those of marijuana.

"There is a very serious drug problem in this country today," Barthwell 
said. "It's marijuana and the problem is even bigger than has previously 
been recognized. Younger and younger children are starting to use marijuana 
and my commitment is to my children and all of the children in the U.S."
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