Medical Marijuana: Bipartisan House Coalition Challenges FDA Medical Marijuana Finding

April 27, 2006

, Drug War Chronicles

A week after the US Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) issued a one-page opinion claiming marijuana has no proven medical uses -- a position that ignores the much more comprehensive analysis done by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine in 1999 -- a bipartisan group of 24 House members led by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) has called on the agency to explain its reasoning and offer scientific proof for its position.

"Despite the fact that you are responding to a scientific question, your press release failed to provide any scientific expertise," the representatives wrote in a Thursday letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. "We call on you to show us the purported scientific evidence for the basis of this response. There is no evidence that you have new scientific proof or that you oversaw clinical trials. It perplexes us that even though the FDA is responsible for protecting public health, the agency has failed to respond adequately to the IOM's findings seven years after the study's publication date."

Last week, the FDA issued a one-page press release declaring that "no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use." The press release did not point to any studies that supported its contention, and it has become an object of controversy among medical marijuana proponents and scientists who have actually done research on marijuana.

Hinchey accused the agency of playing politics with people's lives. "We saw it with the agency's decision on the emergency contraceptive, Plan B, and we're seeing it again with medical marijuana: the FDA is making decisions based on politics instead of science," Hinchey said. "The FDA should not be a political entity. Rather, the agency should be in the business of ensuring all Americans have access to safe and effective drugs, including medical marijuana."

Rep. Hinchey is one of the most ardent defenders of medical marijuana in the House. He has sponsored an amendment that would bar the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients in three consecutive sessions, and he has vowed to offer it again later this year.

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