U.S. rules marijuana has no medical use

U.S. rules marijuana has no medical use

A few days after the Drug Enforcement Administration ruled that marijuana has no medicinal use, and a month or so after a prestigious international commission concluded the drug war was a colossal failure, The Denver Post documented the ongoing drug war with a story about Mexican tour bus operators busted for bringing tens of millions of dollars of pot to Denver. That same day, July 11, TIME Magazine led its weekly print issue with this quote, “The carnage will end only when drugs are legalized.”

You could say these are interesting times for people interested in drug policy, wise allocation of resources and cancer research, to name just a few subjects.

From TIME, on the DEA decision:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ruled on Friday that marijuana has “no accepted medical use” and should therefore remain illegal under federal law — regardless of conflicting state legislation allowing medical marijuana and despite hundreds of studies and centuries of medical practice attesting to the drug’s benefits.

The judgment came in response to a 2002 petition by supporters of medical marijuana, which called on the government to reclassify cannabis, which is currently a Schedule I drug — like heroin, illegal for all uses — and to place it in Schedule III, IV or V, which would allow for common medical uses.

The DEA ruled that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” has a “high potential for abuse,” and “lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.”

Not only does this decision conflict with state laws, however, it also conflicts with a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the branch of the National Academy of Sciences charged with answering complex medical questions for Congress. Way back in 1999, the IOM said:

Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC, for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation; smoked marijuana, however, is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.

If the DEA was not already a laughingstock for having lost the war on drugs so convincingly, it has now declared that marijuana is not medicine, despite more than a dozen states having said otherwise. Despite thousands of cancer and HIV patients having said otherwise, despite the federal government’s own National Institute of Health having said otherwise.

Like so many wars, this one perhaps is destined to go on long after even the most devout loyalists know the score.

Even the august International Business Times got a few guffaws out of this one.

From Columnist J.D. Fain:

The DEA is wrong by not reclassifying marijuana federally as a drug suitable for use as prescriptive medical treatment.

I’m not justifying casual, un-needed marijuana use, since studies have repeatedly shown that marijuana is no different than alcohol or tobacco, legal products, in that it can and does cause problems among users, including increased risk of pulmonary infections, cell damage, a weakened immune system and psychological alterations like the drug’s famous apathy effects.

But in denying marijuana for medical use, the federal government is taking a political stand rather than dealing with the facts of the matter in terms of how it impacts individuals and the nation.

Estimates suggest that more than 100 million Americans have smoked marijuana. Most of it was purchased illegally, at potency and mixes developed without any proper supervision at all.

It seems ironic to suggest marijuana be federally allowed for medical use while arguing at the same time that it has negative, if not dangerous side effects in many instances. But it seems foolish when studies have shown marijuana to actually have some medical benefit for the DEA to categorically deny that it does for reasons political.

No sitting president or political party in search of re-election votes wants that issue on their legacy, so they ignore the problem, allowing it to continue as a problem.

(The DEA is) wrong that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” Many studies and physicians have shown over the years that marijuana can be beneficial in treatment for AIDs and cancer patients. There can be side effects that negate the benefits — and that’s a valid point of argument, but in saying there currently no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, all credibility is lost.

Stimulants like Aderrall which are legally precribed have few health benefits and many side effects but the DEA allows those, presumably because drug companies lobby with millions of dollars to make it happen.

Of course, the pot press is also having a good time with this. 420 Times this week urged President Obama to stick with his campaign pledge of not interfering with state’s rights to legalize marijuana for medical uses.

It isn’t just the alternative press noticing the Obama administration’s movement toward stricter enforcement. NPR sees it as something of a trend.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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