Medical marijuana: FDA must weigh all facts

March 07, 2007

EDITORIAL, California Aggie

Despite mounting scientific support for the medicinal benefits of marijuana, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to oppose the drug's use in treating patients. In doing so, the agency not only stands in contradiction to proven studies, but also to its own mission statement.
The FDA is "responsible for ? helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health," according to the agency's website. But its anti-marijuana stance directly opposes findings that confirm ways in which the drug may improve the health of many.

One such study is the 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, which found marijuana to be "moderately well-suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting," according to a recent article in Forbes magazine.

Even so, FDA spokesperson Sandy Walsh insists there is no "sound scientific evidence" that marijuana has medicinal properties. But with evidence clearly available, one must conclude a difference in ideologies is preventing the agency from considering the approval of a drug that can aid - and in 10 states is already legally helping - those suffering from certain diseases.

Walsh also cites the potential health risks of marijuana use as reason for the FDA's stance - but there are risks involved with all prescription drugs. As such, it should be carefully administered like any other if federally approved.

The largest nationwide medical marijuana legislative group, Americans for Safe Access, recently filed a lawsuit against the FDA in an effort to persuade the agency to repeal its position on the issue. However, it shouldn't take a lawsuit for the FDA to reconsider its stance on medical marijuana.

With multiple conclusive studies showing the drug's benefits, it should be clear to the FDA that medicinal marijuana merits more serious consideration. The evidence is apparent, and it's time the FDA considers all the facts.

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