Drug Law

Drug Czar's Explanation on Medicinal Marijuana Not Enough

| by ASA

Last month, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske came under fire for his statement, reported in the Fresno Bee, that marijuana “has no medicinal value.” Giving him the chance to clear up any confusion on the matter, KOMO-TV aired a follow-up interview today with Kerlikowske. The Drug Czar had this to say:

Sometimes you make a mistake and you work very hard to correct it. That happens. I should’ve clearly said ’smoked’ marijuana and then gone on to say that this is clearly a question that should be answered by the medical community.

Kerlikowske also said:

[T]he FDA has not determined that smoked marijuana has a (medical) value…

Although it’s nice to see a correction to his previous statement, and leaving it to the medical community is favorable to harmful and unnecessary law enforcement actions, the Drug Czar’s position is still problematic.

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Just because the FDA does not recognize the medical efficacy of smoked marijuana, it doesn’t mean that such a position is factual. Americans for Safe Access currently has a pending case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which argues against this assertion and uses a mountain of evidence to illustrate marijuana’s medical efficacy.

Even the 1999 White House-commissioned Institute of Medicine report concluded that, “there are some limited circumstances in which we recommend smoking marijuana for medical uses.” Admittedly, smoking marijuana may not be absent of medical consequences, but as the Lancet Neurology reported in 2003 in an article entitled “The therapeutic potential of cannabis,” smoked marijuana “delivers a more rapid ‘hit’ and allows more accurate dose-titration.”

In addition, Dr. Donald Tashkin, one of the world’s leading scientists on pulmonary research, stated that there was “no association” between smoked marijuana and lung cancer “and even a suggestion of some protective effect.” Dr. Tashkin concluded in May 2006 that:

[E]ven those who smoked more than 20,000 joints in their life did not have an increased risk of lung cancer.

Perhaps more to the point is that the medical community has not offered any substantive alternatives. The government touts the Marinol (synthetic THC) pill as the solution for hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients that benefit from smoked marijuana in the U.S. Unfortunately, Marinol does not provide an adequate delivery system for people with nausea, takes too long to take effect, is difficult to regulate dosages, and offers inferior efficacy to smoked marijuana for most patients that use it.

Ironically, in the same KOMO interview, Kerlikowske rails against prescription drug abuse, citing the yet-to-be-released toxicology report in the death of Michael Jackson. If the Drug Czar were to put two-and-two together, he’d find that many patients who use medical marijuana do so in order to scale down or completely eliminate the use of toxic pharmaceutical medication.

It is important for the government, including the Drug Czar, to provide sick Americans with as many health care options as possible. As Kerlikowske implies, pharmaceuticals are not the panacea. If the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can conclude as far back as 1988 that marijuana is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” why can’t we see fit to recognize its medical benefits and allow patients in need to make use of it?

Read more on OpposingViews.com: Drug Czar Lies About Medical Marijuana