San Mateo Begins Enrollment in Medical Marijuana Study
San Mateo County Health Center officials yesterday began recruiting patients to participate in the "first federally approved study" to examine the potential benefits of medical marijuana in controlling AIDS-related pain and stimulating appetite, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (AP/Contra Costa Times, 4/3). The two-year study will enroll 60 participants who must be at least age 18, HIV-positive, on antiretroviral drugs and suffering from neurological problems. Those with a history of mental disorders, alcohol or drug addiction are ineligible. According to Dr. Dennis Israelski, chief of infectious diseases and AIDS medicine at the county center, study enrollees will be required "to keep a log of their marijuana use and turn in butts ... during scheduled visits." County health officials proposed the study after voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215, the ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency agreed in November to supply the study with government-grown marijuana (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/4).
Congress and President Bush should recognize the medicinal value of marijuana and switch the drug's classification under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act from Schedule 1, the "outlaw category for dangerous drugs devoid of any possible medicinal value," to Schedule 2, the "classification for potentially addictive drugs like morphine and cocaine that nevertheless have some potential medicinal value," a Los Angeles Times editorial states. With the Supreme Court seemingly indicating last week that federal law "strictly forbids voters, judges and local officials to sanction the medical use of marijuana," the editorial urges federal lawmakers to recognize that the 1970 "blanket prohibition" -- "meant to put a lid on the pot culture that was then thought to be demoralizing the nation" -- needs to be amended. Given the growing scientific evidence that marijuana has medical value, the FDA's classification of the drug in Schedule 1 "is looking increasingly arbitrary, political and unscientific," the editorial states. Moving marijuana to Schedule 2 would "allow the FDA to strictly regulate and oversee any medical use of the drug," eliminating the potential of "carelessly" worded state law, such as California's Proposition 215, to "encourage recreational use," the editorial notes. Although the Bush administration -- "which only last week scolded HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson for suggesting that the FDA should regulate tobacco as a drug -- is surely not eager to go easy on marijuana," the editorial concludes that "with a clear majority of voters supporting some limited medical uses, the administration will have a hard time dodging the ball the Supreme Court is likely to throw it" (Los Angeles Times, 4/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.