Clarity on medical marijuana

August 06, 2006

Editorial, Denver Post

Maybe it's time for everybody to take a deep breath and talk calmly about medical use of marijuana.

The weed is illegal as a recreational drug everywhere (of course, that hasn't necessarily deterred everyone), but it is legal as medicine in 11 states, including Colorado. The discrepancy has sparked years of running squabbles among police, prosecutors, doctors, scientists, politicians, potheads and genuinely sick people seeking genuine relief.

The U.S. Supreme Court lit a match to the issue in June 2005 when it ruled that using marijuana is a federal crime, even if used as medicine in states that allow it.

The Food and Drug Administration didn't help last April when it issued a statement (just a statement, not the results of a study) that "smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medical use." Patients use marijuana for nausea relief after chemotherapy, pain and some effects of AIDS.

That statement, apparently issued to mollify some rock-ribbed drug warriors in Congress, was at variance with a 1999 National Academy of Sciences review that found marijuana "moderately well suited" for treating some conditions.

The confusion has created a mess.

A local woman recently had to go the Denver police to recover marijuana confiscated during a traffic stop, even though she has medical approval to use the drug.

In California, patients' rights groups and politicians are fighting over a lawsuit that seeks to overturn that state's medical marijuana law.

In South Dakota, they've battling over the ballot description of a proposed medical marijuana initiative.

Maybe it's time to calm down.

Drug warriors should shake off their "reefer madness" mentality and consider that marijuana may have medical benefits. Lots of otherwise dangerous substances are part of wonderfully beneficial drugs.

The FDA needs to quit cowering before conservative lawmakers and do science. Studies on marijuana's medical uses are underway, but more work needs to be done.

And, however well-intentioned, medical marijuana advocates might want to think about whether ballot measures really are the best way to decide medical questions.

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