Sunday, August 28, 2005

More Reefer Madness

In “Marijuana Pipe Dreams” the New York Times’ John Tierney relates yet more of the perverse institutional stupidity which underlies our nation’s “War” on drugs. In this case, he attends to the question of securing adequate supplies of marijuana to perform essential medical research, so that we might actually make rational decisions about drug policies on the basis of evidence. But evidence and reason are scorned by our defenders of the faith at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
At present, medical researchers have access to but one legal source of marijuana: a government monopoly crop grown in Mississippi and distributed exclusively by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But, as Tierney writes, “Scientists say they need an alternative partly because the government’s marijuana is of such poor quality – too many seeds and stems – and partly because the federal officials are so loath to give it out for research into its medical benefits.
“Discovering benefits, after all, would undermine the great anti-marijuana campaign that has taken hold in Washington. Marijuana is deemed to be such a powerful ‘gateway’ to other drugs that it’s become the top priority in the federal drug war, much to the puzzlement of many scientists, not to mention the police officers who see a lot of worse drugs on the streets.
“People with glaucoma and AIDS have sworn by the efficacy of marijuana, and there have been studies by state health departments showing that smoking marijuana is especially good at controlling nausea. Scientists would like to test these effects, but they can’t do good studies until they get good marijuana.
“Critics of medical marijuana say that it’s unnecessary because patients can obtain the benefits of its active ingredient, THC, through a drug that’s already available, Marinol. But many patients say it doesn’t work as well. They point to the case of the writer Peter McWilliams, who said smoking marijuana was the only way to control the nausea brought on by the mix of drugs he took for AIDS and cancer.
“He was forced to switch to Marinol after a D.E.A. investigation led to his conviction for violating federal laws against marijuana. In 2000, several weeks before he was to be sentenced, he was found dead in his bathroom. He had choked on his own vomit.”
A perfect metaphor for the “War” on drugs itself.


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