Prestigious journal endorses medical use of pot
In this story:
January 30, 1997
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Andrew Holtz
BOSTON (CNN) -- The New England Journal of Medicine has come
out in favor of doctors being allowed to prescribe marijuana
for medical purposes, calling the threat of government
sanctions "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."
In an editorial in Thursday's editions, the journal's editor
Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer wrote, "Whatever their reasons,
federal officials are out of step with the public."
The journal is one of the world's most prestigious medical
Voters in Arizona and California last fall passed
propositions letting doctors prescribe pot for medical uses.
But the Clinton administration issued stern warnings for
doctors who do this, saying they could lose their
prescription-writing privileges, be excluded from Medicare
and Medicaid and even be prosecuted.
Kassirer told CNN that such a policy undercuts doctors. "It
seemed to me a very heavy-handed approach and really quite an
inappropriate approach. What the federal government is
saying is that they don't trust doctors."
Some doctors believe marijuana can relieve internal eye
pressure in glaucoma, control nausea in cancer patients and
combat the severe weight loss seen in AIDS patients.
Administration officials, however, note that such uses of
marijuana have not been proved.
But Kassirer said marijuana is safer than drugs
used legally for some of the same conditions, such as
morphine. "If it relieves suffering, even from one patient,
why not allow physicians to prescribe it?"
He added that it would be hard to prove marijuana's
effectiveness in patients because of the difficulty of
measuring nausea and other such ailments.
Administration officials contend that the medical marijuana
measures confuse children and teen-agers about the potential
dangers of the drug.
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office of
National Drug Policy, stands by the administration's
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"Other treatments have been deemed safer and more effective
than a psychoactive burning carcinogen self-induced through
one's throat," McCaffrey wrote in response to the Journal's
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reported Thursday that a federal
study completed more than two years ago found that
marijuana's main ingredient did not cause cancer in
The paper said the 126-page report on the $2-million study
was never published, although expert reviewers found in June
1994 that the scientific methods used were sound. The
findings go against the contention of some federal officials
that marijuana is carcinogenic.
McCaffrey said his office was not aware of any such study.
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