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Weed Watch

Blowing Bad Smoke

By Jordan Smith, Fri., May 5, 2006

The honchos at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have spoken: The strange and silly idea that marijuana has any medicinal value is a hoax; a cruel, cruel hoax likely perpetrated by those dastardly drug legalizers – who, the FDA would like to remind you, clearly have absolutely no regard for your well-being, since they're actually suggesting you should smoke your medicine, as if it were actually good for you. How absurd!

That's right, on April 20, the FDA issued an advisory to set the record straight – reminding folks that, as the final federal arbiters on matters concerning the safety and efficacy of drugs, they're the good guys and, by declaring that there are absolutely "no sound scientific studies" that support the use of medi-pot, they are looking out for the well-being of all patients.

There are no "animal or human data" that support the "safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use," reads the advisory. And any "effort" to trump the FDA's self-professed expertise in determining such matters, the advisory continues, "would not serve the interests of public health because they might expose patients to unsafe and ineffective drug products. FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease indication."

Clearly, the folks at the FDA got hold of some bad smoke; the FDA advisory conveniently omits any mention of a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, which concluded, in part, that there is considerable "consensus among experts in the relevant disciplines on the scientific evidence about potential medical uses of marijuana"; it was the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy that in 1997 requested that the IOM conduct a "review of the scientific evidence to assess the potential health benefits and risks" of medi-pot "and its constituent cannabinoids." The final report (available at newton.nap.edu/html/marimed) concludes, in part, that the scientific data indicates medi-mari has potential "therapeutic value" for patients suffering with a number of "debilitating" conditions (including things like wasting syndrome, chronic pain, nausea and vomiting – symptoms commonly associated with AIDS and chemotherapy cancer treatments, among other things). Notably, the IOM repeatedly recommends stringent clinical trials and the need to develop an efficacious medi-mari "delivery system" to reduce, or omit, the respiratory hazards associated with smoking. (Indeed, researchers in Holland recently finished a study on the effects of ingesting medi-pot via a vaporizer, which they concluded delivers a consistent dose while omitting potentially harmful substances, like tar, ingested when smoking. Hypocritically, the quest for rigorous clinical testing in the U.S. has thus far been hamstrung by federal officials, primarily with the DEA, who have either denied – or, in some cases ignored – formal requests to grow or obtain pot for use in scientific research.)

The fed-requested IOM report clearly contradicts the latest bit of anti-medi-pot propaganda issued by the FDA. Perhaps the agency could use a refresher course on the differences between science and, say, hysterics – conveniently, the IOM report provides a quick reminder: "This report summarizes and analyzes what is known about the medical use of marijuana; it emphasizes evidence-based medicine (derived from knowledge and experience informed by rigorous scientific analysis), as opposed to belief-based medicine (derived from judgment, intuition, and beliefs untested by rigorous science)."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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