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December 2004
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Drug Warrior Seeks Co-Sponsors

One of our favorite love-to-hate drug warriors is looking to propose a new bill. Here’s his letter:

Dear Colleague,

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed to educate the
public against a dangerous drug whose dangers have been kept from the public
by those promoting its use.
Vioxx?
No. Marijuana.
By law, all drugs bought, sold and prescribed in the U.S. must first undergo
rigorous clinical trials and be proven to be safe and effective by the FDA
before they can be made available to patients. This process ensures patient
safety, protects the public health and ensures accountability and liability
should a patient be injured or harmed.

With no scientific evaluations or conclusive evidence of safety
or effectiveness, however, a number of states and localities have sought to
legalize smoking marijuana for so-called “medical” use.

Smoked marijuana has never been approved for medical use by the FDA. For
several years, in fact, FDA allowed a limited number of seriously ill
patients to use smoked marijuana. The program was terminated in 1992 when
the Public Health Service (PHS) stated there was no scientific evidence that
the drug was assisting patients, and issued a warning that using smoked
marijuana as a form of medical therapy may actually be harmful to some
patients.

The fact is smoking marijuana has no scientifically proven
medical benefits.

Smoking marijuana puts users at risk for countless serious health problems
and may worsen the conditions for which patients wrongly believe it is
treating. And real medical alternatives exist for patients suffering from
the conditions proponents of smoking marijuana claim it can treat. And
again, patients who are smoking marijuana are being denied legitimate care
that could improve rather than worsen their medical conditions.

The public’s health would be best served if science and the FDA continued to
be the basis and judge of the safety and effectiveness of patients’ drugs.
Despite repeated requests by the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice,
Drug Policy and Human Resources, FDA has been reluctant to educate the
public about the false claims and real dangers of smoking marijuana.
I will introduce the “Safe and Effective Drug Act” next week. This bill
directs the National Institutes for Health to examine the available
scientific data regarding the safety and effectiveness of smoking marijuana
and requires the FDA to post this information and distribute it to those
public health entities that advocate or recommend patients smoke marijuana.
If you would like to co-sponsor this legislation, please contact Roland
Foster of my staff…

Sincerely,
Mark E. Souder
Chairman,
Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources

A couple of thoughts come to mind after reading this letter.

  1. Does Mark Souder realize the irony of mentioning Vioxx when talking about looking to the FDA for safety and effectiveness of drugs? After all, while marijuana has never killed anyone, the death toll for Vioxx, which was fast-track approved by the FDA, has reached tens of thousands.
  2. After you get past the anti-medical marijuana rhetoric and the implied assumption that medical marijuana can only be smoked (there’s also vaporizing, and topical or oral treatments), you realize that the stated intent of the bill also matches the interests of drug policy reformers.

Part of the problem with medical marijuana all along is that the federal government has both supressed research, and also ignored existing research and data (all the while complaining that there is not sufficient scientific support). A bill that would require the government to research the available data would seem favorable to anyone seeking the truth (assuming that such a process would be allowed to include the truth).
This will be an interesting one to watch. I’ve written to Souder’s aide mentioning the problem with limiting it to smoked marijuana and he indicated that they were open to changing it to include other applications in a future re-write.

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