FDA Ignores Cannabis Potential

April 27, 2006

, New Scientist (UK)

IT'S enough to make your head spin. The US Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that marijuana is not a legitimate medicine because there is no hard evidence to show its safety or effectiveness. But marijuana researchers argue political obstacles make it almost impossible to get such data.

The FDA says it was responding to requests for an opinion on the drug's medical worth by Mark Souder, the Indiana congressman who opposes marijuana in medicine as well as in foreign fields (see above). The FDA's statement contradicts a 1999 report by the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggesting that marijuana had the potential to treat pain, nausea and anorexia. Since then 11 US states have legalised the medicinal use of marijuana, even though possession of the drug is still a federal crime.

“ Lack of funding and regulatory obstacles make the research difficult”

Stanley Watson, a co-chair of the IOM review, agreed with the FDA that no studies of medical marijuana have been done that meet FDA standards. However, a large amount of anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana is a promising treatment. "It doesn't upset me to hear them say this," he says. "I just think they should do the studies."

Donald Abrams, a marijuana researcher from the University of California, San Francisco, agrees. He says that lack of funding and regulatory obstacles make pursuing the research extremely difficult. "There aren't many people willing to jump all the hurdles," he says.

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