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August 2005
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Science vs. Schedule 1

A big thanks to Kevin, who sent me the August editorial in Nature Neuroscience titled “Brewing a pot of hysteria.”

Although the benefits of smoking marijuana remain controversial,
the government has already decided that THC itself has medical benefits.
Marinol — a synthetic derivative of THC — is federally approved
to reduce nausea and stimulate appetite in patients suffering from
cancer or HIV infection. (Curiously, Marinol is classified as a schedule
III drug, indicating that it is considered less dangerous than THC,
with which it shares both chemical structure and biological activity.)
Marinol is effective in treating vocal and physical tics due to Tourette’s
syndrome. In clinical trials, oral sprays of a marijuana plant extract
called Sativex reduce muscle spasms in patients with multiple sclerosis.
THC also seems to be beneficial in treating neuropathic pain
or glaucoma. Moreover, THC is a relatively safe drug: according to
Daniele Piomelli, the director for the Center for Drug Discovery at
the University of California, Irvine, it would take about 70 grams of
pure THC to cause serious damage to a 150-pound adult. It is therefore
difficult to justify the DEA classification of THC as a class I drug
with no medical value.

This decision has potentially dangerous implications for science. It
reflects a belief that there can be no value in investigating the medical
properties of marijuana because the issue is settled. […]

In light of the data, more research into the medical effects of marijuana
is clearly warranted. Indeed, a report from the US National
Academy of Sciences (http://books.nap.edu/html/marimed) on
medical marijuana concluded that “…the existing data are consistent
with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of
marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse
potential.” Thus it seems hard to justify regulations that allow doctors
to prescribe cocaine and morphine, but not marijuana.

This is some good stuff for the effort to re-schedule marijuana, and a nice slap at the feds for continuing to attempt to justify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.

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