November 30, 1999
Web posted at: 11:40 a.m. EST (1640 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Activists from the Marijuana Policy Project said the Clinton administration is not telling the whole truth when it says the "door is wide open" for research on medical marijuana.
The activists said they are upset with new Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines, which go into effect Wednesday, on procedures to provide marijuana for medical research.
The group told reporters the guidelines are too cumbersome and will
greatly restrict research projects because so many government agencies need to approve a request.
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"It is much more difficult to get permission to do medical marijuana
research than it is to get permission to study any other pharmaceutical
substance. Consequently, it will take decades -- if ever -- for medical
marijuana to be approved by the FDA," said Chuck Thomas, director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that is lobbying for the legalization of medical marijuana.
He said the new federal guidelines reject the Institute of Medicine's
recommendation to give patients immediate legal access to marijuana through a federal "compassionate-use program."
Only eight people in the country qualify for legal marijuana, but the
program under which these individuals got federally prescribed marijuana has since been shut down.
Earlier this year, a federal advisory panel concluded that marijuana can help fight pain and nausea and should be tested further in scientific trials.
It also recommended re-opening the federal compassionate-use program giving individual patients immediate legal access to medical marijuana. That program has been closed to all new applicants since 1992.
The activists say medical marijuana must be made more widely available now because the FDA approval process could take more than a decade, leaving needy patients to suffer unnecessarily or fear arrest if they purchase marijuana for medical reasons.
The activists also say the new federal guidelines place a much greater
burden on medical marijuana researchers than on drug companies that develop and study newly-synthesized pharmaceuticals.
"A growing coalition of health and medical groups, doctors, scientists and members of Congress disagrees with the Clinton administration's claim that the door is wide open for research," Thomas said.
The Marijuana Policy Project says if HHS does not promptly modify its
guidelines, they will continue to work to change laws on the state level.
Right now, half a dozen states have laws on the books to prevent
prosecution of people who use marijuana for medical use.
The Justice Department is challenging voter-approved laws in Alaska,
Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. Maine voters approved a medical marijuana law earlier this month.
Medical marijuana bills are pending in Hawaii and Minnesota, and one is about to be submitted to Maryland's legislature.
Medical marijuana grower slapped with stiff sentence
August 7, 1999
Federal report reignites medical marijuana debate
March 17, 1999
California - Medical Use of Marijuana Initiative Statute
American Medical Association
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