DRCNet Reponse to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization


There Are No Compelling Medical Reasons to Prescribe Marijuana or Heroin to Sick People.

DRCNet Response: We would certainly agree that the DEA would think there are no compelling medical reasons to prescribe marijuana or heroin to sick people. They are not sick, they don't know much about the problems of the people who are sick, and they care even less. However, even if they were right, that isn't the issue. The issue really is:

What do we gain by punishing someone with AIDS or other serious diseasesd


DEA Statement


It is often suggested that, even if currently controlled substances are not made available to the general public, some of them, particularly marijuana and heroin, could be used to relieve suffering.
Participants in the Anti-Legalization Forum acknowledged that arguments urging the medical use of marijuana are often used as an entree into the legalization debate. Medical use arguments can garner public support because they seem harmless enough to the uninformed audience. The experts agreed that these issues are peripheral to the real issue.
The medical pros and cons of prescribing marijuana and heroin to sick people are best debated by medical professionals. It should be kept in mind, however, that marijuana has been rejected as medicine by the American Medical Association, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, and the American Cancer Society.
Not one American health association accepts marijuana as medicine. Statements issued by these organizations express concern over the harmful effects of the drugs and over the lack of solid research demonstrating that they might do more good than harm.


The International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, for instance, said in a statement issued by its Therapeutic Claims Committee in 1992: "Further studies are required to determine whether marijuana has a clinically useful effect on multiple sclerosis. In view of the possible toxic effects of long-term use, its use cannot be recommended. In the opinion of the committee, there appears to be no generally accepted scientific basis for use of this therapy. It has never been tested in a properly controlled trial. Long-term use may be associated with significant serious side effects."
Marijuana also affects:


  • The immune system by impairing the ability of T-cells to fight off infections;


  • The reproductive system by delaying the onset of puberty in young men and women; and
  • Babies who are born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy; these babies are smaller and more likely to develop other health problems.
In July 1995, the Department of Health and Human Service held its first research conference on marijuana. At the conference, new information about the long-term dangers of marijuana use was released. Some of the major findings included the following:


  • Peter Fried, Ph.D., from the Carleton University in Ottawa, found that marijuana use during pregnancy has harmful effects on children's intellectual abilities a decade or more after they are born.


  • Through the use of an animal model, Billy Martin, Ph.D. of the Virginia Commonwealth University, showed that compulsive marijuana use may lead to an addiction similar to that produced by other illicit drugs.
  • Roger Roffman, Ph.D. and Robert Stephens, Ph.D., both from the University of Washington, showed that marijuana can put a serious chokehold on long-term users who try to quit.
  • The American Medical Association policy statement on marijuana says, in part, "The AMA believes that cannabis (marijuana) is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern." This is not a new position for the AMA; it was adopted in 1969 and reaffirmed in 1994.
Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:
Under the federal statute known as the Controlled Substances Act (see opposite page), regulated drugs are divided into categories known as schedules. In Schedule I, for instance, are drugs with a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. At the other end of the spectrum is Schedule V, which is for drugs that have a low potential for abuse and have a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. The Act provides a mechanism for substances to be controlled (added to a schedule), decontrolled (removed from control), or rescheduled (transferred from one schedule to another).
Heroin and marijuana are in Schedule I; cocaine, which is sometimes used as a local anesthetic, is in Schedule II. Much of the debate about medical uses for currently illegal drugs concerns substituting heroin for morphine and supplying marijuana to AIDS and glaucoma patients or using it to treat side effects of chemotherapy.


  • A petition to put marijuana in a less restrictive schedule of the CSA was rejected by then DEA Administrator John C. Lawn, after public hearings, on December 29, 1989. The United States Court of Appeals ordered further proceedings, however, to clear up what it felt were some ambiguities in the record. Administrator Robert C. Bonner, who succeeded Lawn, complied and issued a new ruling on March 26, 1992. "By any modern scientific standard, marijuana is no medicine," Bonner said. The three-judge appeals court upheld the ruling unanimously on February 18, 1994. "Our review of the record convinces us that the Administrator's findings are supported by substantial evidence," the court said, noting the "testimony of numerous experts that marijuana's medicinal value has never been proven in sound scientific studies."




DRUGS are scheduled under Federal law according to their effects, medical use, and potential for abuse


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