DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration.


Say It Straight:
The Medical Myths of Marijuana


The Medical and Scientific Evidence
Political Issues: The California and Arizona Ballot Initiatives
Social and Cultural Issues

Talking Points For Challenging the Medical Use of Marijuana Argument

DEA Statement Response
  1. The Medical and Scientific Evidence
There are over 10,000 scientific studies that prove marijuana is a harmful addictive drug. There is not one reliable study that demonstrates marijuana has any medical value.
If there are more than 10,000 studies which show this then the DEA should be eager to put them on the web, or tell us what these studies are so we can.  The truth is that there are 10,000 studies, total, of all types, about all sorts of issues on marijuana.  None of them provide any evidence that marijuana is any more dangerous or addictive than any of the legal drugs and, in fact, the overwhelming evidence shows quite clearly that it is not.  See, for example, the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, or the more recent Australian government reports, Legislative Options for Cannabis and Physiological and Psychological Effects of Cannabis.

There are literally  dozens of studies which show that marijuana has medical value, including the State of California's own report on the Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis.

Marijuana is an unstable mixture of more than 425 chemicals that convert to thousands when smoked. Many of these chemicals are toxic, psychoactive chemicals which are largely unstudied and appear in uncontrolled strengths.
This statement is contradicted by the obvious.  There has never been a death caused by overdose of marijuana, so it couldn't be terribly toxic.  In fact, according to the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, the probable lethal dose is about one-third your body weight -- consumed all at once.

But the same statement is true of tobacco, to an even greater degree, and it causes 400,000+ deaths per year.   The DEA obviously does not see this as a reason to jail people for tobacco.

The harmful consequences of smoking marijuana include, but are not limited to the following: premature cancer, addiction, coordination and perception impairment, a number of mental disorders including depression, hostility and increased aggressiveness, general apathy, memory loss, reproductive disabilities, and impairment to the immune system. We have a comprehensive collection of the research on marijuana online and these conclusions are simply not supported.  We invite the DEA to come up with the evidence to prove any of this, so we can post it online with the rest, but we won't hold our breath until it happens.
The Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U. S. Public Health Service have rejected smoking crude marijuana as a medicine.
The active ingredient, THC, is a prescription medicine -- Marinol.   Whether a person takes marijuana or Marinol is a personal decision, much the same as the decision to take a vitamin C tablet or to eat an orange.
Medical marijuana has been promoted for "compassionate use" to assist people with cancer, AIDS and glaucoma. Scientific studies show the opposite is true; marijuana is damaging to individuals with these illnesses. In fact, people suffering with AIDS and glaucoma are being used unfairly by groups whose real agenda is to legalize marijuana.
Some medical marijuana users have already proven in Federal court that, not only is marijuana a medicine, but that it is the only medicine which is appropriate for their particular illness.  There are eight such people currently receiving marijuana prescriptions directly from the US Federal Government.  The DEA is lying.
AIDS: Scientific studies indicate marijuana damages the immune system, causing further peril to already weakened immune systems. HIV-positive marijuana smokers progress to full-blown AIDS twice as fast as non-smokers and have an increased incidence of bacterial pneumonia.
This is an absolute falsehood, and the DEA is not willing to present the evidence to support their claim online for proper examination.
Cancer: Marijuana contains many cancer-causing substances, many of which are present in higher concentrations in marijuana than in tobacco.
Even if this was true, it is quite obvious that marijuana use is not a major cancer problem, as tobacco is.  In any event, it would not be a good justification to jail smokers of either substance, or to punish them for using them for medicinal purposes.
Glaucoma: Marijuana does not prevent blindness due to glaucoma. Elvy Musikka would disagree.  She is one of the eight patients who receive a marijuana prescription from the US Federal Government each month.  Elvy went to court and proved that marijuana was the best medicine for her.  After hearing the evidence, the judge told her that she would be insane to obey the marijuana laws.   Shortly thereafter, the Federal Government was legally forced to issue her a prescription for marijuana.  They now send her a large can of marijuana cigarettes every month.
Marijuana is currently up to 25 times more potent than it was in the 1960's, making the drug even more addictive.
This is another blatant distortion, as shown by the DEA's own statements elsewhere on this site.  See, Marijuana
Americans take their medicine in pills, solutions, sprays, shots, drops, creams, and sometimes in suppositories, but never by smoking. No medicine prescribed for us today is smoked.
There are many medications which are taken in an aerosol form, and marijuana may also be taken in that form, through vaporization.  The DEA, however, is opposed to that, too.

Even if that wasn't true, this still would not constitute a valid reason to jail sick people for trying to relieve their own suffering.

The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC (Tetra Hydrocannabinol), is already legally available in pharmaceutical capsule form by prescription from medical doctors. This drug, Marinol, is less often prescribed because of the potential adverse effects, and there are more effective new medicines currently available.
It is a prescription drug, and is also the primary active ingredient in marijuana.  This should, for any rational person, conclusively settle the question of whether marijuana has medicinal properties.  The reasons that medical users prefer the smoked variety to the pill are:

1) it is difficult to keep pills down when you are puking from chemotherapy

2) the pills are tremendously expensive -- several dollars each.

3) the pills get them so high that they are unable to properly function.  They report that they do not take marijuana to get high, but to relieve their symptoms.   The pill, they report, makes them unable to control the level of medicine versus intoxication.  By smoking a joint, they can tell almost immediately when they have reached the desired dose, and then may cease any further medication.

While a biomedical or causal relationship between marijuana and the use of hard drugs has not been established, the statistical association is quite convincing. Twelve to 17 year-olds who smoke marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than those who do not. Sixty percent of adolescents who use marijuana before age 15 will later use cocaine. These correlations are many times higher than the initial relationships found between smoking and lung cancer in the 1964 Surgeon General's report (nine to ten times higher). These correlations do not prove anything, except that people who engage in one risky behavior are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors.  It proves nothing about any causal connection between marijuana and any other drug.

This is the DEA's way of trying to update an old myth that began in 1951 with Harry Anslinger's embarrassment before the Boggs Committee.  Mr. Anslinger was called upon to testify about marijuana and, just before he testified, medical experts came up to testify that they knew for sure that all of the reasons given for outlawing marijuana in 1937 were completely bogus. Stripped of any justification for continuing the marijuana laws, Anslinger made up -- on the spot -- the myth that marijuana is a certain stepping stone to heroin.  The narcotics agents have been trying to find some convoluted justification for it ever since -- because it has become the basis of American marijuana policy and, without it, the policy must surely fall.

See The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States, The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge, and Themes in Chemical Prohibition.

Major medical and health organizations, as well as the vast majority of nationally recognized expert medical doctors, scientists and researchers, have concluded that smoking marijuana is not a safe and effective medicine. These organizations include: the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, National Sclerosis Association, the American Glaucoma Association, American Academy of Opthalmology, National Eye Institute, and the National Cancer Institute.
For a medicine to be a legitimate medicine, it is not required that any of these organizations accept it as a medicine.  It is simply required that a significant and respectable minority of physicians recognize it as a medicine.  See DEA Judge Francis Young's ruling on medical marijuana.DEA Docket No. 86-22, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge ruling on medical marijuana

In addition, the State of California has found that smoked marijuana has medical value, as has the Federal courts which have ordered the Federal Government to distribute it as a medicine.   See Therapeutic Aspects of Cannabis

In addition, the American Public Health Association has spoken in favor of medical marijuana, along with the New England Medical Journal, Lancet, and now the National Institute of Health.

In 1994, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug: highly addictive with no medical usefulness. The court noted that the pro-marijuana physicians had relied on non-scientific evidence. The DEA's own Chief Administrative Law Judge did a much more comprehensive review of the evidence and concluded that the DEA's approach to medical marijuana was "unconscionable".  See DEA Docket No. 86-22, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge ruling on medical marijuana
  1. Political Issues: The California and Arizona Ballot Initiatives
California's Proposition 215, The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, states: "Section 11357 (criminal penalties), relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section 11358 (criminal penalties), relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient 's primary caregiver, who possess or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician."  
Arizona's Proposition 200, the Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act of 1996, states: "We must toughen Arizona 's laws against violent criminals on drugs. Any person who commits a violent crime while under the influence of illegal drugs should serve 100% of his or her sentence with absolutely no early release. " The proposition then goes on to say doctors may be permitted "to prescribe Schedule I controlled substances to treat a disease, or to relieve the pain and suffering of seriously ill and terminally ill patients."  
Both of these ballot initiatives passed, with 56% support for Proposition 215 and 65% support for Proposition 200. The DEA clearly lost.
The language in these ballot initiatives for California and Arizona are so loosely worded that they basically legalize marijuana for everyone, sick or well, adult or child.
This is a bald-faced lie, as shown by the very wording that they have quoted above.  No one but the DEA is making this claim.
Physicians will be able to legally dispense marijuana for migraines, depression or any other ailments. Physicians currently have the discretion to prescribe any other drug for any ailment.  There is no reason to deny them the discretion they spend years in professional schooling to acquire.
Legalizing marijuana through the political process bypasses the safeguards established by the Food and Drug Administration to protect the public from dangerous or ineffective drugs. Every other prescribed drug must be tested according to scientifically rigorous protocols to ensure that it is safe and effective before it can be sold.
The DEA has opposed and effectively blocked any attempt to do such research.  In addition, they helped to block three previous bills passed by the California legislature which would have created a more orderly environment for medical marijuana.  By failing to deal with the issue honestly beforehand, the DEA has dealt themselves into a position where they are now suffering clear political defeats. They would have been well-advised to be more rational much earlier in the process.
The California ballot initiative will make marijuana available without a written prescription, bypassing all established medical guidelines for dispensing drugs.
The DEA has no one but themselves to blame. They have blocked all research and all attempts at a more rational approach until they were finally overwhelmingly defeated by voters who saw the truth -- there is no good reason for punishing sick people for smoking pot.
The Arizona ballot initiative will legalize all Schedule I drugs for medical use. Schedule I drugs are drugs that have a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medical use in treatment. Examples of Schedule I drugs are marijuana, LSD and heroin. Under Arizona's proposition all of these drugs would be essentially legalized for any so-called medical use.
Marijuana clearly has medicinal properties, as shown by the fact that a prescription drug is made from it (see the Marinol brochure) and the fact that the Federal Government distributes it to some patients after being ordered to do so by the Federal Courts.

Heroin is diacetyl morphine, not significantly different from ordinary morphine.  If ordinary morphine has a legitimate medical use, then it naturally follows that diacetyl morphine has a legitimate medical use.

Both of these laws allow for the possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes, however, buying and selling marijuana will remain illegal.
This is true, which shows the stupidity of the situation which the DEA has created.  There is no moral reason to punish any sick person for trying to relieve their own suffering.
These ballot initiatives were passed through a major disinformation campaign financed by wealthy individuals from outside these states. The billionaire financier George Soros gave over half a million dollars to support these initiatives. Other significant contributors include George Zimmer, president and CEO of the Men's Wearhouse clothing store chain, Peter Lewis of The Progressive Corporation Insurance company in Ohio, and John Sperling, CEO of the Apollo Group, a Phoenix holding company for numerous educational institutions.
This is sour grapes.  The DEA is getting beat badly, in debates, in public opinion polls, and at the ballot box.  They are looking for any excuse they can to explain away their failures.
The true agenda for Proposition 215 and 200 is revealed when you examine the backers of these initiatives. The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Drug Policy Foundation and the Cannabis Buyers Club in San Francisco have spearheaded the passage of the propositions. The radical legalization agenda of these groups leaves little doubt about their broader goal to legalize marijuana and other drugs. As reported in High Times magazine, the director of NORML expressly stated that the medical use of marijuana is an integral part of the strategy to legalize marijuana. A former director of NORML told an Emory University audience that NORML would be using the issue of medicinal marijuana as a red herring to give marijuana a good name. It should be obvious why these people are pursuing these issues.  The marijuana laws never made sense in the first place (see Historical References) and the leaders of these organizations rightly recognize that the needs of sick people must be addressed first.
  1. Social and Cultural Issues
The medical marijuana movement and its million dollar media campaign have helped contribute to the changing attitude among our youth that marijuana use is harmless. This softening in antidrug attitudes among teens has led to a 140 percent increase in marijuana use among high school seniors from 1994-95.
Here the DEA is clearly trying to blame their own failures on the medical marijuana movement. 
The pro-legalization organizations behind these ballot initiatives deny that there is a drug problem among our youth.
No, we don't.  We take issue with the hysterical and punitive approaches of the DEA to that problem.  We don't feel that a scorched-earth policy is appropriate for dealing the problems of American citizens.
As much as they seek to focus on people suffering with illnesses, we must keep the debate properly centered on the safety of our kids. In a time where drug use among kids has increased 78 percent in the last four years, this country cannot afford to undermine drug prevention efforts with these pro-marijuana ballot initiatives. The DEA has already lost this point in the public mind.  The issue of medication for sick people has little or nothing to do with the recreational use by anyone else, including kids -- except for the fact that the medical issues show quite clearly that the DEA has been committing long-term fraud.
The strategy to link marijuana with current legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco is used regularly by the pro-legalization groups. The response to this argument is to state that current use among teens is 50 percent for alcohol, 34 percent for tobacco and 19 percent for marijuana. If we want to see marijuana use among youth equal to alcohol and tobacco, then we should go ahead and legalize marijuana.
The DEA fails to note that the Government's own surveys of teens show that teens report that it is easier to get marijuana than to get alcohol or tobacco. 
Legalizing marijuana would add a third drug that combines some of the most serious risks of alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana offers both the intoxicating effects of alcohol and the long-term lung damage of tobacco.
Marijuana does not combine the most serious risks of alcohol and tobacco.   Alcohol and tobacco kill more than 500,000 Americans per year.  Marijuana has not caused a single human death in all of recorded history.  See, for example, The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, and DEA Judge Francis Young's ruling on medical marijuana.
Tobacco companies similarly advertised cigarettes as medicinal until the Federal Trade Commission put a stop to it in 1955. Medicinal marijuana is the "Joe Camel" of the promarijuana lobby, since it is children, the first time users, who are most impressed by these erroneous health claims. The tobacco companies committed fraud in the 1950s, just like the DEA is committing fraud now. 

The DEA presents no evidence that children are most impressed by any claims about medical marijuana, pro, con, or indifferent.  Children are more impressed by the fact that they have been consistently lied to about these drugs, and the fact that organizations like the DEA glamorize these drugs.  See, for example:

How LSD Was Popularized

How Speed Was Popularized

How to Launch a Nationwide Drug Menace

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