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Institute Of Medicine Report On Medical Marijuana Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary Next Week

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Obama Administration "should heed the advice" of the IOM, and "remove federal legal restrictions so that states can regulate marijuana like other accepted prescription medicines," NORML says

Washington, DC: Next Tuesday marks the ten-year-anniversary of the publication of a National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine report that recommended Congress allow for the clinical investigation and use of medical marijuana.

Investigators from the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine (IOM) released their findings, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," on March 17, 1999. The White House Office of National Drug Control commissioned the 267-page report shortly after voters in California passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legalized the medical use of cannabis under state law.

The IOM report affirmed that marijuana and its constituents possessed numerous therapeutic properties, including the ability to control pain, nausea, and anxiety, and to stimulate appetite.

"[T]here are patients with debilitating symptoms for whom smoked marijuana might provide relief," the study concluded. "Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."

Commenting on the ten-year-anniversary of the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that interest into the therapeutic properties of cannabis is far greater today than it was ten years ago. According to a search on the PubMed website, there were 427 scientific studies or reviews on cannabis published in 1999. In 2008, there were over 2,100 studies published.

Armentano further noted that the focus of medicinal cannabis research has changed dramatically over the past decade. He said: "Ten years ago, researchers primarily assessed cannabis' ability to temporarily alleviate various disease symptoms. By contrast, scientists today are exploring the role of cannabis to treat actual disease, including the spread of cancer and the progression of multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease."

Armentano also said that scientists have now discovered alternative ways to safely, effectively, and rapidly deliver pot’s therapeutic properties to patients via the use of vaporizers – devices that heats the active ingredients in marijuana to a temperature where cannabis vapors form, but below the point of combustion. In 2007, investigators at San Francisco General Hospital assessed vaporization technology. "Vaporization of marijuana does not result in exposure to combustion gases, ... and [was] preferred by most subjects compared to marijuana cigarettes. ... The [vaporizer] device is an effective and apparently safe vehicle for THC delivery," researchers concluded.

"Today, the only practical impediments regarding the legal use of medical marijuana are political hurdles," Armentano concluded. "The Obama administration should heed the advice of the Institute of Medicine and initiate clinical trials regarding the medical use of cannabis, and it should remove federal legal restrictions so that states can regulate marijuana like other accepted prescription medicines."

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org or Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500.