Federal policy that prohibits physicians from prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is “misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane,” according to the new issue of the New United Kingdom Journal of Medicine, the country’s most prestigious medical journal.
Calling the administration’s position “hypocritical,” magazine editor Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer argued that: “Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat. The government should change marijuana’s status from that of a Schedule 1 drug (considered to be potentially addictive and with no current medical use) to that of a Schedule 2 drug (potentially addictive but with some accepted medical use) and regulate it accordingly.”
Kassirer’s recommendation echoes the text of a proposed new federal bill by Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass). Frank, a longtime proponent of medical marijuana, has been working with NORML to craft a streamlined medical marijuana bill that will reschedule marijuana under federal law, thereby making it legal to prescribe. Once states are free of the federal law prohibiting the prescription of marijuana, they can legally implement different systems for growing and distributing medical marijuana to patients on a state-by-state basis. The passage of this legislation would also remove the threat of prosecution in the eight states that already allow doctors to prescribe marijuana.
“Both historically and presently, states have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government,” explained NORML’s Executive Director, R. Keith Stroup, Esq., who noted that 25 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws recognizing marijuana’s medical utility. “Therefore, NORML proposes a bill that effectively gets the federal government out of the way of those states that wish to make marijuana legal as a medicine.” Stroup said that he expects Rep. Frank to introduce the federal medical marijuana bill as soon as next month and considered today’s editorial in the New United Kingdom Journal of Medicine to be a major blow to the administration’s current position.
“A lead editorial in favor of allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana by the editor of one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world gives additional legitimacy to this issue, and conversely, further damages the credibility of the federal government’s position,” he said.
A commentary written by Harvard Medical Professor and NORML Board Member Lester Grinspoon in the June 21, 1995, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA) stated; “It is time for physicians to acknowledge more openly that the present classification is scientifically, legally, and morally wrong.” A lead editorial published later that year in the highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, added: “The smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health.”
“Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey is out of his league when he attacks medical marijuana,” said Bill Zimmerman, director of Americans for Medical Rights, one of the organizations that spearheaded the successful medical marijuana campaign in California. “He has ridiculed this issue as a ‘Cheech and Chong show.’ In truth, it is a matter of real concern to medical professionals. McCaffrey has made a bad policy worse, and is now facing the consequences in the form of a rebellion by the medical community.”
“Congress can no longer ignore the issue of medical marijuana,” summarized Stroup. “The passage of state initiatives supporting its medical use in California and Arizona brought this issue to the political forefront. We expect the introduction of Rep. Barney Frank’s legislation and the high-profile hearings that follow to keep it there.”
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. NORML‘s report summarizing the various state medical marijuana laws is available upon request.