Voters in seven states have approved the medicinal use of marijuana (there
is a movement in Florida to do the same), but Washington warned physicians
against abiding by the referendums because federal drug laws prohibit the
cultivation, possession or distribution of the plant.

The result is a legal mess, which is why it was appropriate for the U.S.
Supreme Court to take up the issue last week.

Supporters of medical marijuana have long claimed it is useful in treating
glaucoma, mitigating the side effects of cancer chemotherapy and preventing
the "wasting" associated with AIDS.

But such use of the drug lacks the approval of the Food and Drug
Administration. So the court's decision, expected later this term, should
be based not only on the legal ramifications of using "prescription pot,"
but, more importantly, whether the drug is actually effective in the
treatment of certain ailments.

We already know of some of the things marijuana does to its users. The drug
- - and it is a drug - causes disorientation and, among those who smoke it
frequently, a telltale pop-eyed look. It has also been associated with
mental problems and lung cancer.

It's also known that although the substance may lower eye pressure in
glaucoma cases, there are six other sets of medicines that do the same job
(not to mention laser procedures and surgery) without the social risks.

Arguments could be made that those in great discomfort or facing death may
simply want relief in their last days. But the court should not get into
that issue. Anyway, there are legitimate and effective ways to ease pain
and illness-induced depression.

So what should the justices do? They should decide whether "medical
necessity" cases violate federal drug laws - period. That's important
because a less comprehensive ruling might allow "cannabis clubs" to
distribute marijuana for medical use, which in turn might well open the
door to unrestricted use for anyone who claims to be "sick."

There is no doubt that some supporters of prescription pot see it as an
opportunity to smoke the illegal substance without fear of criminal

But that should not enter into the court's ruling. The decision should be a
far-reaching one based on factual therapeutic data and whether use of the
plant for medicinal purposes violates federal law. Anything less and the
justices will surely be dealing with the issue again.

Newshawk: Sledhead -
Pubdate: Mon, 02 Apr 2001
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2001, The Tribune Co.
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)