News+Opinion » D. A. Smith

THE WANDERING EYE ‌ Clouded Judgment

The FDA becomes a player in the culture wars

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Last Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an announcement saying there were "no sound scientific studies" that justified the medical use of marijuana. The statement came at the behest of Capitol Hill lawmakers, in particular U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.).

Hmm, thought The Eye, the congressional campaign diversion issues are popping up early this year. FDA spokesperson Susan Bro said the statement came from the combined review of past studies by the FDA, federal drug enforcement, and regulatory and research agencies under the aegis of the Health and Human Services Department.

These agencies had concluded, according to Bro, "smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medicinal use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment."

The FDA statement is at polar opposites with a 1999 report issued by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences and the country's most respected scientific advisory body, that concluded marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting."

The IOM study further urged, "marijuana's active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting and other symptoms and should be tested rigorously in clinical trials."

Seven years and a new political order later, the FDA says it had "concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

Well, thought The Eye, "sound scientific studies" are necessarily hard to find when there's no funding out there from the federales and the drug manufacturers are trying to protect their turf.

Dr. John Benson, professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and co-chairman of the IOM marijuana study committee, told the New York Times that the FDA statement and the combined agency review behind it were flat-out wrong, saying that the feds "love to ignore our report ... They would rather it never happened."

Eleven states have approved of medical marijuana use; however, last year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the federal government could arrest anyone using marijuana, even for medicinal purposes and even in those 11 states that had approved medical marijuana.

The FDA statement said as much as well, "Any enforcement based on this finding would need to be by the Drug Enforcement Agency since this falls outside the FDA's regulatory authority."

Great, mused The Eye, now some little old widow lady with glaucoma has to be on the lookout for some trigger-happy G-men.

Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told the Associated Press, "If anybody needed proof that the FDA has become totally politicized, this is it. This isn't a scientific statement; it's a political statement."

Mirken points a finger at the aforementioned Rep. Souder as behind the FDA statement, calling him "a rabid congressional opponent of medical marijuana."

Souder is the chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee and has said to AP that the driving force behind the medical marijuana efforts "is simply a red herring for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Studies have continually rejected the notion that marijuana is suitable for medical use because it adversely impacts concentration and memory, the lungs, motor coordination and the immune system."

Maybe, but back in the 90s when AIDS wreaked its havoc here in Charleston, The Eye didn't see any of its afflicted and dying friends give a rat's ass about memory loss or motor coordination as they literally evaporated from sight.

They just wanted to feel better.

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