Friday, April 21, 2006

FDA rejects medicinal use of marijuana

Agency contradicts scientists, jumps into a political struggle

By GARDINER HARRIS
THE NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana, contradicting a 1999 review by a panel of highly regarded scientists.

The announcement inserts the health agency into yet another fierce political fight.

Susan Bro, an agency spokeswoman, said that the statement resulted from a past combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and research agencies that concluded that "smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment." She said that the FDA was issuing the statement because of numerous inquiries from Capitol Hill but would likely do nothing to enforce it.

"Any enforcement based on this finding would need to be by DEA, since this falls outside of FDA's regulatory authority," she said.

Opponents of efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal uses suggest that marijuana is a "gateway" drug that often leads users to try more dangerous drugs and become addicted.

But the Institute of Medicine report concluded that there is no evidence that marijuana acts as a "gateway" to harder drugs. And it said that there was no evidence that medical use of marijuana would increase its use among the general population.

Dr. Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California-Irvine, said that he had "never met a scientist would who will say that marijuana is either dangerous or useless." He said that studies clearly show that marijuana has some benefits for some patients.

"We all agree on that."