Blowing smoke at the White House

April 27, 2006

EDITORIAL, Tracy Press (CA)

Americans have been getting mixed messages from their governments about medical marijuana use. And we got another one last week that sounds like a scary blast from the past — about 70 years ago when the feds began to crack down on pot.

Since then, the federal government, with the recent support of the Supreme Court in an unusual shift from its “states’ rights” position to “inherent federalism,” have been telling us not to do drugs, or at least not to inhale.

Through the populist initiative process in some states like California, though, smoking, eating and licking pot is OK for medicinal purposes.

But, as the Showtime sit-com “Weeds” satirizes, ailments for which some doctors write marijuana use recommendations are open to interpretation. We can understand conditions like glaucoma, severe weight loss with AIDS, pain and spasticity in the limbs from multiple sclerosis and nausea from chemotherapy. But pot for a torn rotator cup or asthma?

Authors of California’s successful Proposition 215 claim the state law doesn’t give kids or adults the OK to use marijuana, either. Police can still arrest anyone for marijuana offenses. Proposition 215 simply gives those arrested a defense in court if they can prove they use marijuana with a doctor’s approval. That leads to even more interpretation — this time by judges.

So, it’s easy to understand the reefer madness billowing out of the White House. The Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Drug Enforcement Agency have made marijuana abuse their No. 1 priority.

But their barks has been stronger than their bites, since they have so far left it up to state officials in most cases to bust grandma and grandpa for smoking, possessing or cultivating medicinal marijuana.

Enlisting Food and Drug Administration lapdogs to refute the claims of medical benefits from marijuana is a bit too much. It’s like the sinner defining the sins. The FDA argues that state laws permitting the smoking of marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation are inconsistent with the federal policy that all medications undergo rigorous research and testing before drug approval. Based on the FDA’s track record during the Bush administration, the process has been politicized. In fact, a Government Accountability Office report released Monday said the FDA “lacks a clear and effective process for making decisions about, and providing management oversight of” how to judge new safety concerns that arise after a drug is on the market.

That brings into question the credibility of the FDA’s latest message on the medicinal value of marijuana.

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