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FDA Loses Credibility With Jab at Medical Pot

Star-Bulletin, Editorial , 25th April 2006

As the regulatory agency assigned to protect Americans against health risks, the Food and Drug Administration relies on scientific proof to maintain its credibility.

That credibility took a dive last week when the FDA -- citing no studies whatsoever -- announced that "no sound scientific studies" support the medical use of marijuana.

In doing so, it gave a slap to the National Academy of Sciences, whose Institute of Medicine found in 1999 that marijuana is "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting." The academy is the nation's most prestigious scientific advisory agency, and its studies cannot be so easily dismissed.

The FDA's announcement appears to have been induced by Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., a fierce opponent of marijuana who introduced a bill two years ago that would have required the agency to issue an opinion on marijuana's medical properties. He believes that laws in Hawaii and nine other states allowing medical use of marijuana are a front for legalization of all uses of the plant.

Susan Bro, an FDA spokeswoman, said the statement was based on a combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and research agencies. The review concluded that "smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment."

By itself, the statement is so patently political that it is hardly a blow to supporters of medical marijuana. It is in line with the crusade against medical marijuana by John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

It may indicate that the Bush administration is gearing up to crack down on medical marijuana use. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the federal government can prosecute anyone using marijuana for medical purposes, even in states that allow it. The more than 1,000 Hawaii residents registered to grow and use the plant under their doctors' supervision have reason to feel uneasy.

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