State of Iowa
Board of Pharmacy Examiners
1209 East Court Avenue, Executive Hills West, Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0187
Telephone: (515) 281-5944 Facsimile: (515) 281-4609





Swea City

Council Bluffs
West Des Moines
Executive Secretary/Director

March 10, 1995

Senator Elaine Szymoniak
The Iowa Senate

Dear Senator Szymoniak:

I am again writing in response to your letter dated February 23, 1995, 
concerning the medicinal use of marijuana.  Board members and staff have 
conducted an extensive review of the medical literature pertaining to 
medical marijuana, including American, British, and Australian sources.  
Our search included all of the references listed at the end of this 
letter.  The Board believes that the pertinent medical literature 
supports its opposition to marijuana for therapeutic purposes and offers 
the following information for your review:

1.     "...[T]he essence of arguments on both sides revolves around how 
much research is enough...despite published studies, very little still is 
known about the extent of marijuana's physiological and psychoactive 

2.     Janet D. Lapey, M.D., the executive director of Concerned Citizens 
for Drug Prevention, Inc., is one of medicinal marijuana's most vocal 
opponents.  Dr. Lapey has stated that "crude marijuana contains some 400 
chemicals, many unidentified, that, when smoked, combust into more than 
2,000 chemicals, including carcinogens and toxins such as benzene and 
toluene.1  Cannabis has also been described by C. H. Ashton as "a prime 
example of a pharmacologically 'dirty' drug.  It contains many active 
substances with multiple effects and several (unknown) mechanisms of 

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 2                 March 10, 1995

3.     Dr. Lapey has also stated that the National Institutes of Health 
reports that "new drugs, including the serotonin receptor antagonist 
ondansetron hydrochloride (Zofran...), surpass THC's therapeutic value in 
calming cancer patients' chemotherapy-induced nausea.  For HIV wasting 
syndrome, she points to the availability of dronabinol, noting the  
potential dangers of immunocompromised patients smoking a carcinogen-
containing substance."1

4.     Christine Hartel, Ph.D., the associate director for neuroscience 
in the Division of Clinical Research at the National Institute on Drug 
Abuse (NIDA), reinforces Dr. Lapey's remarks.  Dr. Hartel has stated 
"that after 20 years of research that produced synthetic THC in 
dronabinol capsules, 'the doctors and researchers at the NIH do not see 
[inhaled] marijuana as having much promise'."1

5.     One recent article published In The Western Journal of Medicine 
has stated the following: "Marijuana smoke contains carcinogens and more 
tar than tobacco smoke, and the psychoactive effects of marijuana 
ingestion have been implicated as a risk factor for injuries...daily 
marijuana smoking appears to be associated with respiratory conditions  
even among persons who never smoked tobacco."2  The study also found 
"increased risks of injury-related and other (nonrespiratory, noninjury) 
outpatient visits among marijuana smokers, suggesting that marijuana use 
may have many adverse health effects" (emphasis added).2  The authors 
concluded that "[D]aily marijuana smoking, even in the absence of  
tobacco, appeared to be associated with an elevated risk of health care 
use for various health problems."2

6.     Donald P. Tashkin, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University 
of California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, has stated that 
"[s]everal lines of evidence suggest that marijuana smoking is also 
associated with an increased risk for the development of respiratory 
tract malignancy."3

7.     Although the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been 
legalized in Canberra, Australia, it remains highly controversial.  The 
Australian federal health minister, the Australian Medical Association, 
and the Australian federal police are all pressuring lawmakers to repeal 
the new law.  The Australian Federal Attorney General has called on the 
members who passed the law to "move quickly to repeal the amendments and 
repair the damage done to the territory's reputation for responsible law 

8.     Richard H. Schwartz, M.D., of the Fairfax Hospital for Children in 
Falls Church, Virginia, has stated that "support of the use of marijuana 
for medical purposes is  scientifically unfounded.  There is no evidence 
that marijuana is superior to ondansetron (Zofran), dexamethasone, or 
synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (Marinol) as an antiemetic in patients 
undergoing chemotherapy.  Nor is there scientific evidence to support the 
use of marijuana for AIDS-associated anorexia, depression, epilepsy, 
narrow-angle glaucoma, or spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.  
As a crude drug, moreover, marijuana has been shown to produce 
undesirable mental changes, disturbances in coordination, giddiness, and 
hypotension in at least 25 percent of novice users..."6

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 3                 March 10, 1995

9.     Doris H. Milman, M.D., of the Children's Medical Center of 
Brooklyn (New York) has stated that "[m]arijuana cannot be characterized 
as 'a remarkably safe substance.'  Its  active ingredient, 
tetrahydrocannabinol, may have some therapeutic value as an antiemetic  
but has not been generally accepted thus far, because there are other, 
more useful, such drugs and because its other applications are far from 

10.    An Australian article published in 1992 concluded that "the 
results of standard in-vitro and in-vivo toxicological tests performed in 
the 1970s on animal preparations to which marijuana extracts were 
administered have proved to be good predictors of the long-term 
pathophysiological manifestations observed 20 years later in chronic 
marijuana smokers.  These manifestations also confirm anecdotal accounts 
reported throughout history of the damaging effects of cannabis."7

11.    Amanda Caswell, another Australian author, has warned that 
"smoking is not an ideal method of drug delivery and chronic marijuana 
smoking has been associated with bronchitis and asthma."8

12.    Several authorities have criticized the survey of oncologists 
conducted by Richard E. Doblin and Mark A. R. Kleiman.  In their survey, 
Doblin and Kleiman stated the  following: "Of the respondents who 
expressed an opinion, a majority (54%) thought marijuana should be 
available by prescription."12  In response, Richard H. Schwartz, M.D., 
has stated the following: "I calculate that this 'majority' can be no 
more than 15% to 20% of the original sample and is probably much less."9  
Sandra S. Bennett of the Oregon Federation of Parents for Drug Free Youth 
stated the following in a letter to the editors of the Annals of Internal 
Medicine: "
     I point out that, although the authors [Doblin and  
Kleiman] stated their association with the John F. Kennedy School of  
Government of Harvard University, they failed to mention that Mr. Doblin  
is the founder and president of the Multidisciplinary Association for  
Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), referred to as the 'People's Psychedelic  
Pharmaceutical Company' in their newsletter head.  The organization has  
advocated research on humans with the street drug Ecstasy and the gradual  
medicalization and legalization of psychedelics.
     In MAPS newsletters dated Summer 1990 and August 1991, Doblin 
outlines a plan to use different forums, including Annals and the press, 
to lend credibility to the campaign to legalize marijuana use and to 
bolster a suit against the Drug Enforcement Administration.  I believe 
that the authors' bias and hidden agenda should be made known to your  

13.    Stuart M. Levitz, M.D., of the Boston University School of 
Medicine, has warned that "[p]atients should be aware that this practice 
[of smoking marijuana] may involve unforeseen risks.  Studies have shown 
that most illegally obtained marijuana is contaminated with Aspergillus 
species...Aspergillus spores easily pass through

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 4                 March 10, 1995

contaminated marijuana that is immunocompromised patients, 
invasive pulmonary aspergillosis may ensue.11

14.    Rayford Kytle, the spokesperson for the United States Public 
Health Service, reports that scientists at the National Institutes of 
Health (NIH) have concluded that existing medical evidence does not 
support continuation of the policy that has allowed a small number of 
cancer, glaucoma, and AIDS patients to smoke marijuana legally.  "NIH  
scientists believe that there are better and safer treatments than smoked 
marijuana for controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea, relieving eye 
pressure caused by Glaucoma, and stimulating the appetites of patients 
with HIV-wasting syndrome," Kytle has said.10

15.    J. Thomas Ungerleider, M.D., of the UCLA Center for the Health 
Sciences, Department of Psychiatry, has stated the following: 
     A special problem that arises when cannabis or THC is researched is 
the positive and negative bias about the drug that the subject or patient 
brings to the study.  Since it is believed that marijuana effects are 
readily identified, then even in a blind study certain patients might 
detect it, attribute magical powers to the drug, and overreport its 
beneficial impact.  In the large cancer chemotherapy study recently 
completed at UCLA, it was found that 75% of the patients were unable to 
distinguish when they received THC and when they received Compazine.
     One thing is clear:  Marijuana is neither the wonder drug that some 
people have assumed it is, nor the embodiment of evil that others assume.  
If it finally gains some position in the medical armamentarium, it will 
likely be a modest one, providing symptomatic rather than curative 

16.    The possible adverse effects of cannabis on health include the 
following: impaired immunity; chromosomal damage; psychopathology 
(including acute panic reaction, toxic delerium, acute paranoid states, 
psychoses, flashbacks, violence, amotivational syndrome, residual 
psychomotor impairment, and brain damage); tolerance and dependence, lung 
problems; cardiovascular problems; eye problems; and effects on driving 
an automobile.15

17.    Harry S. Greenberg, M.D., and others recently studied the effects 
of smoking  marijuana on patients with multiple sclerosis.  "The 
hypothesis of this study was that marijuana smoking would relieve the 
spasticity of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) sufficiently to allow 
better postural control and thus produce a therapeutic 
benefit...Marijuana smoking worsened the dynamic posturography of both 
the patients and the control subjects.  Therefore the hypothesis that 
initiated this research was not confirmed" (emphasis added).16

18.    According to a study on the management of cancer pain in adults 
published in the American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy in 1994, 
cannabinoids are not recommended for the treatment of cancer pain due to 
adverse effects such as dysphoria, drowsiness, hypotension, and 

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 5                 March 10, 1995

19.    "Despite initial hopes...the therapeutic use of cannabinoids 
remains limited."21

20.    Robert E. Peterson, director of Michigan's Office of Drug Control 
Policy, has stated that "there's from the medical community 
when it comes to lifting the medicinal marijuana ban."1  He and other 
opponents also say that medicalized marijuana is a smoke screen.  "The 
only reason we're having the medical debate is because [advocates] want 
it legalized for recreational use."1

21.    Lester Grinspoon, M.D., a leading advocate of marijuana's 
medicinal value, admits  that a meaningful marijuana compassionate use 
program would require "an army of bureaucrats..."1

In summary, the Board wishes to emphasize the following:

     •    The survey of oncologists conducted by Richard E. Doblin and 
Mark A. R. Kleiman in 1990 has been questioned and criticized by medical 
practitioners and others.  The findings of the survey may in inaccurate 
and flawed.  As a result, we do not believe that the survey should be 
relied upon.

     •    In regard to research, good data is lacking to prove the 
therapeutic effectiveness of smoking marijuana.  While the Board does not 
oppose research, we believe that it will be difficult for any researcher 
to obtain unbiased data.

     •    Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting is a very weak excuse 
for justifying marijuana use.  New drugs, such as ondansetron 
hydrochloride (Zofran), work very well to control nausea and vomiting in 
cancer patients.

     •    Allowing AIDS or cancer patients who are already 
immunocompromised to inhale marijuana smoke only exposes them to 
additional health risks (bacterial infection, lung cancer, etc.).

     •    The purity and consistency of the marijuana product is a 
significant factor.  The dose of active ingredient administered from 
inhalation by smoking cannot be controlled.

     •    The offices of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners are 
clerical offices.  The Board has no resources or laboratory facilities 
available to it which would allow bench research or scientific 
extrapolation of marijuana products to test for purity or quality.  The 
statement in your letter of February 23, 1995, that "any marijuana 
received [by the board]...shall be made free of impurities and analyzed 
for potency by the board" is not possible due to the limitations of the 
Board's current facilities and level of funding.

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 6                 March 10, 1995

     Thank you for understanding the cautious attitude of the Board in 
regard to this issue.  When regulating the practice of pharmacy, the 
Board always strives to take whatever action is necessary to adequately 
promote, preserve, and protect the public health, safety, and welfare.

Sincerely yours,

Lloyd K. Jessen
Executive Secretary/Director

cc:    Mark Schoeberl
       Legislative Liaison
       Iowa Department of Public Health

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 7                 March 10, 1995


1.    Voelker, Rebecca, "Medical Marijuana: A Trial of Science and 
Politics," Journal of the American Medical Association, June 1, 1994, 
Volume 271, No. 21, pp. 1645 to 1648.

2.    Polen, Michael R., et. al., "Health Care Use by Frequent Marijuana 
Smokers Who Do Not Smoke Tobacco," The Western Journal of Medicine, June 
1993, Volume 158, No. 6, pp. 596 to 600.

3.    Tashkin, Donald P. M.D., "Is Frequent Marijuana Smoking Harmful to 
Health?" The Western Journal of Medicine, June 1993, Volume 158, No. 6, 
pp. 635 to 637.

4.    Zinn, Christopher, "Canberra legalises cannabis for patients in 
trials," British Medical Journal, December 10, 1994, Volume 309, p. 1532.

5.    Tonks, Alison, "British patients demand to use cannabis," British 
Medical Journal, December 10, 1994, Volume 309, pp. 1532 to 1533.

6.    "Correspondence," The New England Journal of Medicine, July 14, 
1994, Volume 331, No. 2, pp. 126 to 129.

7.    Nahas, Gabriel, and Latour, Colette, "The human toxicity of 
marijuana," The Medical Journal of Australia, April 6, 1992, Volume 156, 
pp. 495 to 497.

8.    Caswell, Amanda, "Marijuana as medicine," The Medical Journal of 
Australia, April 6, 1992, Volume 156, Issue 7, pp. 497 to 498.

9.    "Correspondence" (letter from Richard H. Schwartz, M.D., and letter 
from Sandra S. Bennett), Annals of Internal Medicine, August 1, 1992, 
Volume 117, No. 3, pp. 268 to 269.

10.   Bowersox, John, "PHS Cancels Availability of Medicinal Marijuana," 
Journal of the National Cancer Institute, April 1, 1992, Volume 84, No. 
7, pp. 475 to 476.

11.   "Correspondence" (letter from Stuart M. Levitz, M.D.), Annals of 
Internal Medicine, October 1, 1991, Volume 115, No. 7, pp. 578 to 579.

12.   Doblin, Richard E. and Kleiman, Mark A.R., "Marijuana as Antiemetic 
Medicine: A Survey of Oncologists' Experiences and Attitudes," Journal of 
Clinical Oncology, July 1991, Volume 9, No. 7, pp. 1314 to 1319.

13.   Busto, U., et. al., "Clinical Pharmacokinetics of Non-Opiate Abused 
Drugs," Clinical Pharmacokinetics, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp. 1 to 26 

Senator Elaine Szymoniak            Page 8                 March 10, 1995

14.   Ungerleider, J. Thomas, M.D., et. al., "Therapeutic Issues of 
Marijuana and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)," The International Journal of 
the Addictions, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp. 691 to 699 (1985).

15.   Hollister, Leo E., "Health Aspects of Cannabis," Pharmacological 
Reviews, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp. 1 to 20 (1986).

16.   Greenberg, Harry S., M.D., et. al., "Short-term effects of smoking 
marijuana on balance in patients with multiple sclerosis and normal 
volunteers," Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, March 1994, Volume 
55, Issue 3, pp. 324 to 328.

17.   Jacox, Ada, et. al., "Management of cancer pain: Adults," American 
Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, July 1, 1994, Volume 51, Issue 13, pp. 1643 
to 1656.

18.   Agurell, Stig, et. al., "Pharmacokinetics and Metabolism of       
delta-1-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Other Cannabinoids with Emphasis on 
Man*," Pharmacological Reviews, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp. 21 to 43 (1986).

19.   Dewey, William L., "Cannabinoid Pharmacology," Pharmacological 
Reviews, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp. 151 to 178 (1986).

20.   Graves, Terri, "Ondansetron: A New Entity in Emesis Control," DICP, 
The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, November 1990, Volume 24, Issue 11S, pp. 

21.   (Editorial) Ashton, C.H., "Cannabis: dangers and possible uses," 
British Medical Journal, January 17, 1987, Volume 294, Issue 6565, pp.