HOW’S IT PLAYIN’?: FEDERAL POLICY ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Reaction has poured in to the Clinton administration'sThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
recently announced policy of punishing doctors who prescribe
marijuana for medical purposes. In our sampling of newspaper
editorials regarding Clinton's response to medical marijuana
initiatives in California and Arizona, AMERICAN HEALTH LINE found
supporters and opponents alike, but discovered that most back
BOSTON GLOBE: "Reefer Madness" -- "The Clinton
administration should be fighting the drug war on the streets,
not in the bedrooms of the terminally ill. By taking a hard line
against the medicinal use of marijuana, the president has shown a
callous disregard for human suffering in the service of a
doctrinaire policy of prohibition. ... [Marijuana] offers a
measure of relief to people suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple
sclerosis, glaucoma and Parkinson's disease. That's why 37
states ... have passed laws easing restrictions on the medicinal
use of the drug. ... The states are clearly out front on an issue
that the Clinton administration has chosen to play for politics"
DALLAS MORNING NEWS: "Medical Marijuana" -- "If it were
proved absolutely that marijuana relieves intense physical pain
and discomfort among patients, laws allowing doctors to prescribe
marijuana would likely be acceptable to most Americans. But
unless Americans are prepared to legalize marijuana across the
board, such legislation must be carefully drafted. And therein
lies the basic problem with the medical marijuana initiatives
approved in November by California and Arizona: They are too
broadly written" (1/6).
DETROIT FREE PRESS: "Marijuana" -- "Despite the passage of
recent referenda in California and Arizona, developing standards
for prescription writing and drug classification is a job
delegated to the federal government. So it's proper that
administration officials say they must revoke prescription-
writing privileges for doctors who prescribe Schedule I drugs.
... In other senses, though, the administration's point people --
particularly retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, now the
president's drug czar -- seem to want it both ways. Gen.
McCaffrey says medical use of any and all substances will be
studied, but a ban continues on federal research dollars for
marijuana studies" (1/4).
HARTFORD COURANT: "Does Marijuana Therapy Work?" -- "The
Clinton administration's point is well taken in declaring war
against physicians who prescribe marijuana for treatment of
medical conditions: When it comes to illegal drugs, anarchy
won't be tolerated. ... Rather than be closed to the idea on
principle, proper studies should be encouraged to get to the
truth behind those claims [of medical benefits]. If it can be
proved that marijuana provides the best relief for certain
conditions, it ought to be dispensed by prescription. ...
[A]ggressive pursuit of a national policy based on sound medical
research would prevent other states from fashioning a crazy quilt
of marijuana laws" (1/2).
MIAMI HERALD: "A Policy Gone To Pot" -- "The Clinton
administration couldn't help but barge into the prickly thicket
created by Arizona and California voters' approval of separate
initiatives allowing limited use of some illegal drugs for
medical treatments. ... Sure, some supporters' motives were to
make marijuana easier to obtain, period. Nevertheless, the
administration's harsh stance is a mistake. ... It would have
been far wiser for the administration to monitor how the new laws
are implemented and enforced before jumping the gun and issuing
such Draconian threats" (1/6).
Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE: "Hemp Hysteria" -- "Perhaps the
best thing that could come out of [last] week's tussle over
prescribing marijuana as medicine is the encouragement of
legitimate scientific research on the subject. For unless the
federal government supports such research, it cannot logically
base a sustained battle against medicinal marijuana on a lack of
evidence showing effectiveness. In the meantime, President
Clinton and his administration's health officials must move
firmly to separate the medical issues from the political where
marijuana is concerned" (1/4).
NEW YORK TIMES: "Marijuana For The Sick" -- "Although the
voters in [California and Arizona] have clearly spoken, it is
impossible for either measure to be carried out without someone
violating federal law. The Clinton administration thus has
little choice but to insist that federal drug statutes be
enforced. That response is not enough, however. Federal
authorities need to address concerns that a legitimate treatment
for seriously ill patients is being blocked because of broader
fears of marijuana abuse. ... What is needed now is a more
thorough effort to test the claims from reputable sources that
marijuana may be a compassionate means of relieving suffering.
... State initiatives are a clumsy way to set policy. ... But if
the government refuses to investigate carefully claims about
medical use of marijuana, it will only spur voters in other
states to take the issue into their own hands" (12/30).
PHOENIX GAZETTE: "Legal Issue On Marijuana" -- "The key
point here is that federal law, which supersedes state law, makes
absolutely no provision for taking illegal drugs. Thus, there is
no room for doctors to prescribe or patients to use such
controlled substances. And the penalties for doing so can be
severe. Even if the voters in two states are of a different
mind, we see no reason whatsoever to repeal a fundamental and
long-standing principle of the U.S. legal system. Indeed, it
would be farcical to see this principle go up, literally, in a
cloud of smoke" (1/4).
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: "Drugs, Democracy & Deliberation"
-- "The ill-conceived measures that California and Arizona
voters passed last November to permit the medicinal use of smoked
marijuana show that you can fool most of the people some of the
time. ... The Clinton administration had good reasons for moving
forcefully against the initiatives last week by warning doctors
they could by punished for recommending the drugs. ... Supporters
of the drug measures call this modern-day McCarthyism and say it
amounts to an unconstitutional gag on free speech by doctors.
But since when is there a First Amendment right for doctors to
prescribe illegal drugs? The Clinton administration needed to
send a clear signal to the nation's children -- and it did"
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: "Don't Target Doctors" -- "The
Clinton administration is taking the wrong approach by
threatening to sanction doctors who prescribe marijuana under the
California and Arizona initiatives. Federal authorities are
entirely justified in looking for abuses of the law, such as
growers and dealers looking for false cover or workers using an
excuse to get high on the job. But the government should not be
stopping doctors from using their best judgment in helping
gravely ill patients get a touch of relief" (12/31).
SEATTLE TIMES: "Medical Use of Pot" -- "Whatever one thinks
of the broadly written initiatives passed in California and
Arizona, there is a committed corps of Americans who take the
idea of compassionate use for medical marijuana seriously. ... It
is the Drug Enforcement Administration that is thwarting the
scientific process, by stalling approval of a federal study at
Washington State University to evaluate claims by cancer patients
and others about the medical effectiveness of marijuana. ...
Until the DEA gets out of the way of WSU scientists in search of
the truth, the official White House policy on medical use of
marijuana is not only political posturing. It's quackery"
WASHINGTON POST: "A Toke Instead Of A Tablet?" -- "This
paper has been supportive over the years of more flexibility in
the use of regulated narcotics -- heroin, in particular -- for
the alleviation of pain in the terminally ill. There is no risk
of addiction or fear of inducing new disease at that point in
life, and compassion should be the guiding principle. Many
medical experts now say that strengthened and improved
prescription medications obviate the need for illegal drugs in
treatment. But the door should be kept open for new evidence and
revised regimens for the ill" (12/31).