As federal battles over medical marijuana across the country heat up, a statement from one federal agency may be a huge asset for medical marijuana dispensaries
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a division of the National Institutes of Health, which is itself one of the 11 component agencies that make up the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Last week, the NCI quietly added to its treatment database a summary of marijuana’s medicinal benefits, including an acknowledgment that oncologists may recommend it to patients for medicinal use.
The summary cites clinical trials demonstrating the benefit of medical marijuana. Part of it reads:
The potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal Cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.
Although 34 states have passed laws recognizing marijuana’s medicinal properties and 15 states, plus Washington, D.C., have legalized it for medical use, this is the first time a federal agency has recognized it as medicine. Despite recent developments, Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2009 that the Justice Department would not raid medical marijuana facilities, but at no point did he acknowledge their legitimacy as distribution centers for medicine. A 2001 Supreme Court ruling, meanwhile, declared that medical use of marijuana cannot be considered in any federal court deliberating on a marijuana possession or distribution case.
The new NCI assessment could have an impact on the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the harshest possible drug classification, which has resulted in a prison population in which 1 in 8 prisoners in the U.S. is locked up for a marijuana-related offense. One of the principal criteria for a Schedule I determination is that there be “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” The U.S. Justice Department may have a hard time maintaining that claim if challenged, considering a federal agency now recognizes marijuana’s medical use in cancer treatment.
From the other side of the argument comes a new white paper (PDF) from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) censuring the prescription of marijuana by doctors in states where its medical use is legal. The ASAM takes issue with the fact that marijuana is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and therefore not subject to the same standards as other medicines. The white paper also cites as a health risk the fact that the most common method of using marijuana is smoking it.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, believes that the ASAM paper is a direct response to the new NCI evaluation and that ASAM physicians have a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal in all cases.
“These doctors are making a fortune off of marijuana prohibition,” he says. “They have a financial, proprietary interest to maintain the status quo.”
St. Pierre argues that addiction specialists would be losing a major revenue source if marijuana were legalized, decriminalized or simply recognized as medicine in federal court. Without the massive number of arrests and convictions based on marijuana-related offenses, there would be a sharp drop in the number of patients referred to a doctor for marijuana addiction counseling by judges.
“The NCI statement? Fascinating. The ASAM reply? Pathetic. And predictable,” says St. Pierre.
Dr. Andrea Barthwell, former president of ASAM, claimed in an ASAM press release that the white paper had its origins in a concern for doctor liability and responsibility.
“Allowing cannabis to circumvent FDA approval sets a dangerous precedent and puts us on a slippery slope,” she said.
Giffords shooting leads nation to introspection and political finger wagging
In the wake of the shooting in Arizona this weekend that critically injured Rep.
EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management
At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from
E-Verify Mandate Begins Today
The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm
EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules
The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com) The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.
EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’
In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work
EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria
The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards
EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’
All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of
EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some