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Federal agency recognizes pot for medical use


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Medical marijuana dispensaries currently under fire from the IRS may have been handed a critical new weapon in their fight to stay open. The National Cancer Institute, one of the many federal agencies who make up the National Institute of Health, has ruled that marijuana does in fact have medical benefits, making it the first federal agency to do so.

The NCI has issued a statement that in clinical trials, cancer patients successfully treated nausea and vomiting, sleeplessness, pain, and loss of appetite using marijuana. It stated that cannabis was being investigated as having not only a palliative effect on symptoms, but also a possible "direct antitumor effect".

The IRS has been citing § 280E of the federal tax code as a means of disallowing years of business deductions for marijuana dispensaries, which, if allowed, would effectively put many of them out of business. § 280E states that no business deductions will be allowed for businesses "trafficking in controlled substances".

From the Washington Independent:

The new NCI assessment could have an impact on the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the harshest possible drug classification, which has resulted in a prison population in which 1 in 8 prisoners in the U.S. is locked up for a marijuana-related offense. One of the principal criteria for a Schedule I determination is that there be "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." The U.S. Justice Department may have a hard time maintaining that claim if challenged, considering a federal agency now recognizes marijuana's medical use in cancer treatment.

The Independent also reports on a white paper (PDF) issued by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) stating that because marijuana is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, doctors should be censured for prescribing it in states where it is legal. The report cites marijuana use as a health risk in that the drug's primary method of consumption is through smoking.

Marijuana advocates like Allen St. Pierre of the National Organization for Marijuana Legalization (NORML) believe that the physician-directed ASAM has a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal. St. Pierre is quoted in the Independent as saying, "These doctors are making a fortune off of marijuana prohibition. They have a financial, proprietary interest to maintain the status quo."
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