TO YOUR HEALTH. British newspaper and magazine readers may be startled: A new advertising campaign notes that the U.K.'s doctors can prescribe heroin as a painkiller but can't prescribe "a safe naturally occurring herb for the pain of MS," multiple sclerosis. The four ads, created gratis by London advertising executives for the Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT), are the first ever in Britain encouraging the legalization of marijuana for medical use.

The publications that plan to run the ads, including the Daily Telegraph, Britain's bestselling broadsheet, are likewise doing it as a freebie. That may not always happen, so George Soros, the billionaire who helped bankroll successful medical marijuana initiatives in California and Arizona, has been approached for a $500,000 donation. But unlike the American campaigns, this one is not tied to a referendum; the ads seek to influence policy makers.

Doctors used to prescribe marijuana for medical use until it was criminalized in 1971. A British Medical Association survey of its members found 74 percent are in favor of prescription pot. A working committee of the BMA is studying the issue and will report in July. The government, which annually spends around $856 million on antidrug ads, warns that, should medicinal cannabis be legalized, users wouldn't be allowed to cultivate their own herb gardens. Pharmaceutical companies would have to develop products and submit them for clinical trials and licensing--just like other prescription drugs.--Thomas K. Grose

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