Boston Globe
October 2, 1997, Page A15

McCaffrey says: Let voters decide

Antidrug policy chief testifies on medical marijuana use

By Reuters, 10/02/97

    WASHINGTON - Barry McCaffrey, the coordinator of the US antidrug effort, said yesterday that legislators opposing medical use of marijuana should let the public decide the issue.
    ''At the end of the day, the government should offer to me the scientific fact, and let the American people make up their own minds,'' General McCaffrey told members of a House panel on crime.
    Later, McCaffrey was blunt when asked whether he would travel to Florida, Arkansas and other states to oppose medical marijuana measures that were expected to be placed on voters' ballots.
    ''I am not in charge of America,'' McCaffrey said.  ''I'll provide information for the debate, leaning heavily on the scientific-medical community.   I'll inform them of federal law.  I'm not America's nanny.  The American people are perfectly capable, when they are exposed to the facts, of making up their own mind.''
    Eight states have medical marijuana laws, according to McCaffrey's office of National Drug Control Policy.  They are: California, Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia, Virginia, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.
    Five more states plus Washington D.C., have such initiatives pending.   The states are Alaska, Washington state, Arkansas, Florida and Massachusetts.
    Dr. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School said in prepared testimony that marijuana can be useful in treating the nausea often brought on by cancer chemotherapy and can also be effective for other ailments.
    Grinspoon likened the general rejection of marijuana's medical uses to early suspicions about penicillin.
    McCaffrey said further studies were needed to determine marijuana's effectiveness for medical purposes.

Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.