Feds still ostriches on medical marijuana

March 01, 2007


RESEARCHERS at the University of California, San Francisco, have presented more evidence of medical benefits from marijuana.

The UCSF study concluded that HIV patients who smoked three joints of marijuana per day experienced relief from chronic foot pain associated with the disease.

By contrast, previous studies of marinol — the FDA-approved drug containing a synthetic version of THC, an active ingredient in cannabis — showed little promise in relief for HIV-associated neuropathy, a peripheral nerve disorder that causes intense, sharp pain, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Doctors concluded marijuana contains properties in addition to THC that lead to effective relief for HIV patients.

In fact, the UCSF study tested patients who smoked cannabis as opposed to smoking a placebo. Patients who smoked cannabis experienced a 34 percent reduction in intense foot pain; the first cannabis cigarette patients smoked reduced chronic pain 72 percent as opposed to 15 percent for those who smoked the placebo.

Though three joints a day could probably relieve many pains and assorted ailments, it's still another key piece of evidence that shows how marijuana can be a big benefit in the medical field. Cannabis has also been effective in other cases, such as bringing relief to cancer patients who experience pain and nausea from chemotherapy treatments. A 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine said that though marijuana is a strong drug, it is safe and should not be excluded from medical uses.

We agree. Yet even as the evidence mounts about the benefits of marijuana as a medicine, federal officials and agencies continue to bury their heads in the sand, still believing the scare tactics of marijuana from the 1960s that are virtually laughable in this day and age.

In the case of HIV patients suffering from neuropathy, treatment generally consists of antidepressants and seizure drugs, but those medications often don't work and some patients can't tolerate them. In fact, the FDA has not approved any drugs specifically for that condition. Can you imagine being such a patient, knowing something like marijuana is out there and can help, yet government puts it out of reach. These people aren't drug addicts; this isn't an "Animal House" party — these are people with a chronic illness who need help.

Let's face it — many available painkillers, if abused, can be dangerous, even deadly, but they can be obtained via a doctor's prescription.

Yet here we are with growing mounds of evidence, and federal officials still can't bring themselves to agree that marijuana, if treated as a doctor-prescribed painkiller, can be effective and beneficial to many patients.

Organizations are calling for Congressional hearings to discuss possibly legalizing marijuana for medical use. An Oakland advocacy group is taking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to court demanding that it change its stance on pot's medical value.

We hope federal courts and lawmakers take a good hard look at the benefits of marijuana treatment, examine the evidence and come to the conclusion that we're not talking about hard-core drugs like heroin or opium — we're talking about safe pain relief for those who need it most.

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