Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Reefer Madness: Big Pharma Edition

Researchers Find Study of Medical Marijuana Discouraged:

Despite the Obama administration’s tacit support of more liberal state medical marijuana laws, the federal government still discourages research into the medicinal uses of smoked marijuana. That may be one reason that — even though some patients swear by it — there is no good scientific evidence that legalizing marijuana’s use provides any benefits over current therapies.

Marijuana is the only major drug for which the federal government controls the only legal research supply and for which the government requires a special scientific review...Researchers investigating LSD, Ecstasy and other illegal drugs can use any of a number of suppliers licensed by the Drug Enforcement Administration [...]

But federal officials have repeatedly failed to act on marijuana research requests in a timely manner or have denied them, according to a 2007 ruling by an administrative law judge at the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Of course, the fact that big pharmaceutical companies oppose legalization of ye old Hippie Lettuce for medicinal use is the thousand pound elephant not being discussed. There's no irony in one group of drug pushers muscling another group of drug pushers (in this case, Big Pharma going to war against Tea Heads). But the fact that the federal government, beholden to the army of lobbyists employed by Big Pharma, enables this stifling of research requests (as this WSJ story, on the same dearth of studies, notes) is more than an outrage.
As the legal landscape for patients clears somewhat, the medical one remains confusing, largely because of limited scientific studies. A recent American Medical Association review found fewer than 20 randomized, controlled clinical trials of smoked marijuana for all possible uses. These involved around 300 people in all—well short of the evidence typically required for a pharmaceutical to be marketed in the U.S.
Worse are the apocalyptic comments and/or anecdotes still being proffered by those who oppose any kind of Wacky Tobacky use, even for medicinal purposes (emphasis mine).
Some doctors and law enforcement officials say [positive] anecdotes should not drive public policy. Dr. Eric Braverman, medical director of a multispecialty clinic in Manhattan, said legalizing marijuana was unnecessary and dangerous since Marinol provided the medicinal effects of the plant. “Our society will deteriorate,” he said.

Other marijuana users may experience the well-known reduction in ability to concentrate. At least a few users suffer troubling short-term psychiatric side effects, which can include anxiety and panic. More controversially, an analysis published in the journal Lancet in 2007 tied marijuana use to a higher rate of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia. But the analysis noted that such a link doesn't necessarily show marijuana is a cause of the conditions.
Correlation does not equal causation, but don't let a few facts get in the way of a good bogeyman, for which Mary Jane has served, with distinction, since the 1930's. Not the Great Recession and all the predictions of states being forced to let out low-level drug offenders, or decriminalizing low levels of certain drugs, or the stories of suffering cancer or AIDS patients who find relief from their agony with marijuana, none of these is going to change what has become an article of faith amongst the "War on Drugs" adherents: that 4:20 is a bad, bad, bad time of day.

With 30,000 people in prison for spliff-related offenses, and another 50,000 or so on probation or parole, we are nowhere near seeing an end to the ganja madness which has gripped the country for 75 years or more.

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