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11/07/2007 00:00:00

Opinions on medical marijuana are diverse

The question of whether marijuana, also known as cannabis, has medical
benefits engenders a wide range of often opposing opinions.

The federal government denies there is any medical benefit, while some
doctors' associations support its use.

Other organizations say the issue needs more study.

The US Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for testing
and approving drug products for the country, says marijuana is not FDA
approved for any medical treatment and supports its classification by
the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug, along with
heroin and opium.

“FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease
indication. Furthermore, there is currently sound evidence that smoked
marijuana is harmful,” the FDA says. “A growing number of states have
passed voter referenda, or legislative actions, making smoked marijuana
available for a variety of medical conditions upon a doctor's
recommendation. These measures are inconsistent with efforts to ensure
that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the FDA
approval process and are proven safe and effective under the standards
of the FD&C Act.”

Of marijuana's classification as a Schedule 1 drug, the FDA states,
“Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted
medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of
accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

The California Medical Association, however, supports the medical use of
cannabis in “case of medical necessity” and has supported that position
by filing court briefs in support of its use.

In its official position paper on the issue, CMA says physicians need
the freedom to treat patients as they see fit and that marijuana has
been shown to be effective treating certain medical conditions.

“CMA believes that physicians and their patients must be free to explore
all possible avenues of medical treatment when standard therapies have
failed, and no governmental body should impede or punish that effort,”
said former CMA president Dr. Frank E. Staggers, Sr., an Oakland urologist.

Former CMA CEO Dr. Jack Lewin says, “In cases of extreme discomfort or
wasting, when patients are undergoing chemotherapy or are suffering from
AIDS or other diseases, evidence shows that marijuana can be an
effective treatment.”

The American Medical Association does not endorse the use of marijuana
as a medicine but says certain conditions, “continue to merit further
study on the potential medical utility of marijuana.”

These conditions include HIV-infected pain relief, nausea and vomiting
side effects of medications and chemotherapy, spinal cord injury pain,
chronic pain and insomnia.

“The AMA calls for further adequate and well-controlled studies of
marijuana and related cannabinoids in patients who have serious
conditions for which preclinical, anecdotal, or controlled evidence
suggests possible efficacy and the application of such results to the
understanding and treatment of disease,” the AMA states.

In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Jerome P.
Kassirer argues that in cases of patients who suffer pain associated
with life threatening illnesses marijuana should be allowed as a
treatment and is preferable to the alternatives.

“I believe that a federal policy that prohibits physicians from
alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill
patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane. Marijuana may have
long-term adverse effects and its use may presage serious addictions,
but neither long-term side effects nor addiction is a relevant issue in
such patients,” Kassirer wrote. “It is also hypocritical to forbid
physicians to prescribe marijuana while permitting them to use morphine
and meperidine to relieve extreme dyspnea and pain. With both these
drugs the difference between the dose that relieves symptoms and the
dose that hastens death is very narrow; by contrast, there is no risk of
death from smoking marijuana.”

Author: Mt Shasta News via UKCIA

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