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...a weekly service for the media on news items related to Marijuana Prohibition.

December 15, 1994

Drug Enforcement Administration Continues to Block Study on
Use of Marijuana to Alleviate Symptoms of AIDS

        When the Clinton administration bowed to DEA pressure against making marijuana medically available, it promised to allow privately funded research, but it continues to block an FDA-approved protocol study on the effect of marijuana on the AIDS Wasting Syndrome by Dr. Donald Abrams at San Francisco General Hospital.
        Dr. Abrams has been seeking approval for his research for two and a half years.  The FDA has already approved Dr. Abrams' research.  The protocol has been supported by the Physicians Association for AIDS Research, the nation's oldest and largest association of physicians interested in AIDS treatment and research, and by the Federation of American Scientists.  The only legal supply of marijuana for the study is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  NIDA has the marijuana in stock and has no other compelling requests for its use.  NIDA has supplied marijuana to every FDA-approved protocol for several decades, yet it has delayed Dr. Abrams' study for over 2 years.  Without marijuana, the research is impossible.
        A December 9 meeting that was to decide whether the U.S. government would permit or prohibit the study was postponed by Dr. Philip Lee, the Assistant Secretary for Health, due to "scheduling conflicts."  The meeting will be rescheduled, supposedly later in December.
        At issue are scientific freedom and compassion for patients. Support for Dr. Abrams' protocol is not necessarily support for the medical use of marijuana, it is simply support for the resolution of this controversy through science rather than ideology.  Similarly, the medical use of marijuana is not equivalent to marijuana legalization.  Thousands of AIDS patients are already risking arrest to use marijuana illegally for the wasting syndrome.  The medical use of marijuana has been rejected by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claiming there is not enough research, yet now it is trying to kill research.  Science, not politics, should decide this issue.
        Dr. Alan Leshner, the Director of NIDA, can be reached at 301-443-6480 (fax 301-443-9127). Dr. Philip Lee, Assistant Secretary for Health, can be reached at 202-690-7694 (fax 202-690-7203).  The offices of Dr. Lee and Dr. Leshner acknowledge that they have been receiving a substantial number of phone calls, faxes, and letters in support of Dr. Abrams' study from those who value scientific freedom over the ideological suppression of research.
        [For more information on the study, contact medical marijuana research sponsor Rick Doblin at 704-358-9830.]

Teenage Drug Use Up?

Monday's Department of Health and Human Services press release claimed that there was a "22 percent increase in marijuana/hashish-related" emergency room visits.

        Question: How is a visit determined to be marijuana/hashish related?
        Answer: By the simple MENTION of marijuana use by the patient.  This is not the clinical diagnosis of a "marijuana/hashish-related" illness.
        Question: What percentage of "marijuana/hashish-related" mentions involved marijuana alone?
        Answer: Only 20%. The rest involved alcohol (50%), cocaine (40%), or other drugs. (Combinations result in totals over 100%.)  Many hard drug users also use marijuana, especially when they are having trouble with or trouble getting-their "drug of choice."

HHS Secretary Donna Shalala explained the severe health problems associated with heroin- and cocaine-related emergency room visits.

        Question: What are the problems generally associated with emergency room "mentions" of marijuana only?
        Answer: Emergency room "mentions" associated with marijuana alone are almost always transitory panic reactions by inexperienced users.  It is impossible to overdose on marijuana, so there are few if any acute effects from marijuana use.

Illicit drugs are said to be the great scourge of America.

        Question: What percentage of emergency room admissions are "drug-related" involving mentions of illicit drugs?
        Answer: 0.57%.  That's right.  All illicit drugs account for slightly more than half of one percent of all hospital emergency room admissions.  Emergency room "mentions" of marijuana alone account for slightly more than one percent of drug-related emergency room visits: one percent of half of one percent of the total number of emergency room visits!
        Question: What percentage of hospital emergency room admissions are alcohol related?
        Answer: From 15% to 25% (source: Consequences of Alcoholism, Alcohol Use and Abuse [p. 236] by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc.).  Self-reporting -- i.e., "mentions" of alcohol use indicate that 55% of people injured in fights had consumed alcohol prior to the event.  More than half of homicide victims tested positive for alcohol.

The statements by HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Drug Czar Lee Brown and resulting media coverage emphasized their alarm at the reported increase in the percentage of 10th graders who have smoked marijuana in the last year to 25%.

        Question: What percentage of 10th graders reported having been drunk in the last month?
        Answer: Over 20% of the 10th graders report having been drunk in the last month.

According to the government's own statistics, alcohol killed over 100,000 Americans in 1993, but marijuana killed only 300. (No explanation is given.  NORML is unable to find any fatalities.)  Almost as many 10th graders have gotten drunk in the last month as have used marijuana in the last year.  HHS Secretary Donna Shalala announced that a special "prevention campaign aimed at younger audiences is being developed by HHS' drug abuse agencies."

Question: Which drug is the target of this special campaign?
Answer: Marijuana, of course, because Shalala says "illicit drug use often starts with marijuana."  Actually, this is also untrue.  Most teenagers use alcohol before they use marijuana, and alcohol is an "illicit drug" for teenagers.  Brown said that he will dedicate himself to "continuing to do all [he] can to reduce demand for illicit drugs and to provide the leadership to reach the President's vision of a drug free society."  (emphasis added)
Question: What is "the President's vision of a drug free society?"
Answer: A society in which adults are arrested for using a drug marijuana that kills less than 0.3% as many people as are killed by alcohol and accounts for less than 0.005% of all emergency room visits.
Question: Why has America's "drug education" been a failure?
Answer: Reread the above questions and answers.  Prohibitionist propaganda isn't drug education, and facts aren't news, so we will have more of the same.

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