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Drug Czar Addresses Medicinal Cannabis Supporters' Concerns in Form Letter

As reported earlier by Common Sense for Drug Policy, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske provided attendees of a Fresno, CA speaking engagement with some misinformation about medical marijuana in late July, and his lies blew up so magnificently in his face that he (or, more accurately, his Content Specialist, Keri) finally responded to the barrage of calls, letters, and emails he received from advocates and concerned citizens who took issue with his false claim that marijuana has no medicinal values. Unfortunately, as the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) reported in an August 3, 2009 press release ("Drug Czar Responds to Outraged Marijuana Supporters"), he did so with a cursory form letter, to which CSDP links courtesy of MPP.

MPP astutely notes that the "letter essentially hides behind a 2006 statement from the FDA, which claims, 'No sound scientific studies have supported medical use of smoked marijuana.'" Moreover, the Project points readers to the "numerous studies" contained on its website. Readers who want to look further into the issue should also check out Drug War Facts' "Medical Marijuana" section, as well as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and Americans for Safe Access, among other groups - to whom CSDP links on both its Medical Marijuana news section and its Links page - for more medical marijuana-related studies and research news.

However, MPP makes no mention of the fact that the federal government of which Kerlikowske's office is a part has for decades put tight restrictions on research pertaining to the medical benefits of marijuana. The letter claims that "What constitutes safe and effective medicine should continue to be based upon reviews of the appropriate science by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." But the letter fails to address two important facts: first, that the FDA has been supplying a small number of patients with low-quality medicinal cannabis for thirty years, and second, that when researchers like Lyle Craker express their willingness to expand that limited governmental research effort, they are virtually always denied the opportunity to grow marijuana for research purposes, and obtaining even the low-grade marijuana the government supplies to researchers is not particularly easy. Thus, Kerlikowske's decision to "hid[e] behind a 2006 [FDA] statement" not only represents a blatant passing of the buck but also works to throw readers off the government's trail; in other words, in citing a three-year-old FDA opinion to back up his claims, Kerlikowske willfully ignores the role the Food and Drug Administration and the federal government of which it is a part have played in undermining scientific inquiries on the issue and preventing researchers from verifying - in a way that the government would find acceptable - medical cannabis patients' claims that the drug, legal in 13 states for therapeutic purposes, alleviates symptoms of certain illnesses and their treatments, not to mention the evidence provided by the researchers' colleagues regarding marijuana's medical benefits.

Medical marijuana supporters should continue hounding the Office of National Drug Control Policy and related agencies - FDA incuded - until we get our message across, but expecting a reasonable answer from the Office looks about as silly as Kerlikowske at this point.

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