Friday, July 15, 2011

Science Disconnect

Earlier this month, I noted the Obama administration's backtracking on the promise to review the drug laws. In an opinion piece written for the Los Angeles Times, Stephen Gutwillig and Bill Piper also excoriate the administration's sudden push against state medical marijuana laws, noting its deliberate disconnect from the science of the issue. Gutwillig is the Drug Policy Alliance's California state director; Piper is the group's national affairs director.

The administration's disconnect from science is shocking. A federally commissioned study by the Institute of Medicine more than a decade ago determined that nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety "all can be mitigated by marijuana." The esteemed medical journal the Lancet Neurology reports that marijuana's active components "inhibit pain in virtually every experimental pain paradigm." The National Cancer Institute, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, notes that marijuana may help with nausea, loss of appetite, pain and insomnia. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia, home to 90 million Americans, have adopted laws allowing the medical use of marijuana to treat AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other ailments. The federal government itself cultivates and supplies marijuana to a handful of patients through its "compassionate-use investigative new drug program," which was established in 1978 but closed to new patients in 1992.

Marijuana use, like any drug, certainly carries risks. When it comes to policy, however, these risks should be weighed against the harms associated with current marijuana laws. It is notable that every comprehensive, objective government commission that has examined marijuana throughout the past 100 years has concluded that criminalization of adult marijuana use does more harm than marijuana use itself. Moreover, the risks associated with marijuana use are demonstrably far less than those associated with Oxycontin, methamphetamine, morphine and other drugs currently available for medical use. It defies not just science but common sense for the Obama administration to be so aggressively anti-marijuana, especially for medical use.
[Emphasis added]

By refusing to acknowledge the science it promised to honor, the Obama administration callously cuts out what is an important tool in treatment which in the long run is cheaper and safer for people suffering from various illnesses and the treatment for those illnesses. The states with medical marijuana laws have agreed to police the distribution of the drug and to regulate its usage. Why the administration is being so callous at this point is a mystery, unless, of course, it is more swayed by pharmaceuticals who will lose some money on prescription drugs which have more serious side effects or by those with a vested interest in continuing the ridiculous War On Drugs than by the science available.

For whatever reason, the administration is wrong in this.



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