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DEA Statement

CLAIM V: THERE ARE NO COMPELLING MEDICAL REASONS TO PRESCRIBE MARIJUANA OR HEROIN TO SICK PEOPLE.

The Facts

It is quite easy to refute this argument for both drugs.

Medically speaking, heroin is simply a stronger form of morphine. Therefore, if there is a legitimate medical use for morphine, then there is a legitimate medical use for heroin. Heroin was once used medically in a manner similar to morphine and was even used for pain relief during childbirth. Doctors state that heroin is a good drug for medical use because it is safe, powerful, and short acting. Recent research indicates that pain-killers can be important healing agents after patients undergo major surgery, because these drugs reduce the stress on the central nervous system. In some cases, the amount of time required to heal can be cut in half. Some research shows that the best doses of morphine are perhaps ten times what they were considered to be just a decade ago.

In the case of marijuana (hemp), there is already an approved prescription drug, Marinol, which is derived from the primary active ingredient in marijuana and used for the conditions for which marijuana (hemp) is recommended. Marijuana (hemp) itself would not be approved as a prescription drug because of FDA rules which state that a medicine must consist of only the active ingredients and a filler. Therefore, the rules themselves prohibit the approval of any natural substances such as a plant, even though the active ingredients in the plant and the prescription drug are precisely the same.

The question then becomes, why should a sick person pay sixty dollars a pill when they can grow the same medicine in their own backyard for free?

Some patients report that the homegrown version of the medicine is far superior to the prescription version for a couple of reasons. One reason is that marijuana (hemp) is often used to treat nausea and it is often hard to keep pills in their stomach when they have nausea. Some of them have complained that it is awfully depressing to vomit up a sixty dollar pill. Therefore, it is better if the medicine is smoked because it bypasses the stomach and gets the medicine into the body much more quickly. Another reason that some sick people prefer marijuana (hemp) over Marinol is that Marinol makes them "higher than a kite", and they don't want to be high, they just want their medical symptoms relieved. By smoking marijuana (hemp), they can limit the amount of "high" they get.

Marijuana (hemp) has traditionally been used in medicines for thousands of years. Prior to 1937, it was the most common agricultural crop in America and was used for literally thousands of purposes, including rope, cloth, paper, fuel, and medicine. It was prescribed for a wide variety of ailments and was included in up to two-thirds of all over the counter preparations. Prior to 1937, cannabis (hemp) was completely unregulated and it would have been impossible to regulate cannabis (hemp) because it was a major agricultural crop grown nearly everywhere. Cannabis (hemp) derivatives were included in a wide variety of items consumed by the general public. Despite this widespread, unregulated consumption, there were no reported problems. The American Medical Association was opposed to the marijuana (hemp) laws in 1937 for these reasons. The promoters of these laws openly lied about the AMA's attitude toward the law in order to get it passed.

DEA Statement

It is often suggested that, even if currently controlled substances are not made available to the general public, some of them, particularly marijuana and heroin, could be used to relieve suffering.

Participants in the AntiLegalization Forum acknowledged that arguments urging the medical use of marijuana are often used as an entree into the legalization debate. Medical use arguments can garner public support because they seem harmless enough to the uninformed audience. The experts agreed that these issues are peripheral to the real issue.

The Facts

The DEA has no business making decisions or statements about the proper medical use of anything. The fact that they do is only one more example of what is wrong with our current drug policy.

There should be no argument at all that it is up to the medical profession and its patients to define what is, or is not, a proper medical treatment. The police do not have the required professional knowledge to determine proper medical uses, they do not know what difficulties individual patients may face in their treatment or what benefits patients might receive, and they care even less. It is absurd to pretend that complex medical decisions can be made for every patient in the United States by an organization such as the DEA.

The problem goes beyond the illegal drugs such as marijuana and heroin. The problem extends to pain killers of all types in general. The severity of this problem was seen in the recent case of Florida versus Martinez.

Mr. Martinez was a lay AIDS counselor who ran a drug buyers club for AIDS patients. A drug buyers club purchases medical drugs which are available in other countries but not in the United States and distributes them to sick people here. Mr. Martinez was charged with distributing morphine without medical training or a license.

Mr. Martinez did not deny the fact that he distributed morphine to people and that he was in violation of the drug laws. His only defense was that his actions were a medical necessity, because of the barbaric policies of the DEA against people who were in pain. The defense brought forth experts who testified how the DEA had prosecuted and imprisoned doctors for prescribing Tylenol 3 -- Tylenol with codeine -- a drug which is not even a prescription drug except in the United States and South Africa, and the US is the only control in the world which has ever sent a doctor to prison for prescribing it. They testified about AIDS patients who suffer from a nerve degeneration all over their body which makes them scream in pain every time they are even touched. For many of them, a simple bath can be painful beyond belief, and yet they cannot get pain medication because their doctors are often afraid to prescribe it because they fear what the DEA could do to them.

After the jury heard the evidence on the government's drug policy, they voted unanimously for acquittal. This trial was shown on Court TV and has been repeated many times because it is one of the most interesting trials they have ever shown.

DEA Statement

The medical pros and cons of prescribing marijuana and heroin to sick people are best debated by medical professionals. It should be kept in mind, however, that marijuana has been rejected as medicine by the American Medical Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, and the American Cancer Society.

HHS report

Not one American health association accepts marijuana as medicine. Statements issued by these organizations express concern over the harmful effects of the drugs and over the lack of solid research demonstrating that they might do more good than harm.

The International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, for instance, said in a statement issued by its Therapeutic Claims Committee in 1992: "Further studies are required to determine whether marijuana has a clinically useful effect on multiple sclerosis. In view of the possible toxic effects of longterm use, its use cannot be recommended. In the opinion of the committee, there appears to be no generally accepted scientific basis for use of this therapy. It has never been tested in a properly controlled trial. Longterm use may be associated with significant serious side effects."

Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:

Under the federal statute known as the Controlled Substances Act, regulated drugs are divided into categories known as schedules. In Schedule I, for instance, are drugs with a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. At the other end of the spectrum is Schedule V, which is for drugs that have a low potential for abuse and have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. The Act provides a mechanism for substances to be controlled (added to a schedule), decontrolled (removed from control), or rescheduled (transferred from one schedule to another).

Heroin and marijuana are in Schedule I; cocaine, which is sometimes used as a local anesthetic, is in Schedule II. Much of the debate about medical uses for currently illegal drugs concerns substituting heroin for morphine and supplying marijuana to AIDS and glaucoma patients or using it to treat side effects of chemotherapy.

A petition to put marijuana in a less restrictive schedule of the CSA was rejected by then DEA Administrator John C. Lawn, after public hearings, on December 29, 1989. The United States Court of Appeals ordered further proceedings, however, to clear up what it felt were some ambiguities in the record. Administrator Robert C. Bonner, who succeeded Lawn, complied and issued a new ruling on March 26, 1992. "By any modern scientific standard, marijuana is no medicine, " Bonner said. The three judge appeals court upheld the ruling unanimously on February 18, 1994. "Our review of the record convinces us that the Administrator's findings are supported by substantial evidence," the court said, noting the "testimony of numerous experts that marijuana' s medicinal value has never been proven in sound scientific studies."


 

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