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Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the Program in Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona wrote in the The Arizona Star, 6-5-02: 

"The federal government continues to fight an irrational war against medical marijuana, and the sick and struggling are its principal victims. 

"Make no mistake: The government's demonization of marijuana is irrational. 

"I hear regularly from patients that the pill does not work as well as the natural herb and causes much greater intoxication. 

"As a physician, I am frustrated that I cannot prescribe marijuana for patients who might benefit from it." 

This issue is not only important to millions of potential patients but for what it reveals about the drug war mentality in general : 

* Government lies and distortions. 

* Disrespect for - and lip service to - science. 

* Willingness to let the innocent suffer - perhaps die - if a political agenda is at stake. 

* Willingness to increase risks to children even while purporting to defend them. 

* Willingness to bully and override voters despite overwhelming public support for change both in polls and state referendums. Why ? 

* Willingness of voters to accept all of the above. 

 A Strange Case 

Medical use of marijuana has a long history. (For official remarks from 1854, see[1])The government has had ample reason to know that marijuana was safe and useful for medical purposes for decades. 

This item only covers a recent period when the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy [ONDCP] commissioned the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to report on the subject. The cost to taxpayers for a review of existing - not new - medical evidence was almost a million dollars. 

This came shortly after the director of ONDCP, our "drug czar," retired General Barry McCaffrey, had told the nation that, "There is not a shred of evidence that marijuana is medicine." He accused reformers of perpetrating a "cruel hoax" on the public. (Still, most of us - the hoaxed - would have been smart enough not to hire someone to review evidence that didn't exist.) 

The report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, was released on March, 18, 1999. The New York Times, called it, "The most comprehensive analysis to date of the medical literature about marijuana." 

The report said, "We acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting." 

IOM rejected the "gateway" but implied that making marijuana illegal caused a link to other drugs [2]. It explained in detail why smoked marijuana was often superior to synthetic pills, addressed and dismissed the standard objections and even noted: 

"The side effects of cannabinoid drugs are within the acceptable risks associated with approved medications. Indeed, some of the side effects, such as anxiety reduction and sedation, might be desirable for some patients." 

( For more details from the IOM report and other concurring reports, of which the government was already well aware, see Vital Medicine.) 

The "czar" called the IOM report a "superb piece of work. " [3] 

Case closed ? 

Not by a long shot ! 

Within months, as Governor Gary Johnson tried to convince the New Mexico legislature to make medical marijuana legal, the "czar," drawing on his military expertise, rushed from D.C. to New Mexico to say: 

"Smoked dope is not medicine . . . I think it's a crock." [4] 

As best we can tell, President Clinton ran for the sidelines to contemplate the definition of the word "is." (He was also busy ignoring the advice of his experts on the efficacy of needle exchanges to limit the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases; heroically, he was able to ignore more than one important health measure at a time.) 

Not to be outdone, President Bush (who was sure this was an issue for states to decide when he was Governor Bush), with the able assistance of the new "czar," John Walters and John Ashcroft, launched a campaign to overthrow the will of the voters of nine states (and Washington D.C.), to threaten doctors with loss of licenses if they so much as advised patients of the efficacy of marijuana, and to harass, arrest and intimidate suffering patients. (Terrorists were hard to find but this was a piece of cake and gave law enforcement something to do.) 

Polls have consistently shown that about 75% of the American people support allowing medical use. That's because they have inherent common sense and have been exposed to some of the facts on this narrow issue. 

We suggest that this case is typical of government behavior across the board, a microcosm of the drug war. Unless voters choose to act to protect their right to know, they will be unaware of the other irrational acts that promote unnecessary suffering around the world in the name of the drug war. 

 This story is the subject of an excellent book, "Waiting to Inhale: The Politics of Medical Marijuana" by Alan Bock. 

See: Science vs Politics for more comments on the generally disgraceful disregard for science by the Bush administration.

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