Maijuana useful in preventing wasting diseases

PRINCETON, N.J. (U-WIRE) — Since the passage of Proposition 215 in California three years ago, the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has become a major issue for physicians, anti-drug policy makers and pot-heads alike. Three years after Californians passed the initiative, cannabis clubs distribute marijuana legally to needy patients — an example of the decaying moral structure of America or of the compassion of the civic polity and a sound medical alternative to pills, depending on with which side you agree.
However, it is clear that hundreds of people are benefiting medically and emotionally from medicinal marijuana. Substantial — though not completely conclusive — evidence indicates that marijuana can help ease the pain of chemotherapy and AIDS by giving people the “munchies” so they can eat. As long as they stay away from Cheetohs and Taco Bell, these patients can dramatically better their diet.
Although any gravely ill person in major California cities can go to a cannabis club, medicinal marijuana is unfortunately not accessible to many people. These people are forced to go to street dealers or simply go without.
The Clinton administration has gone out of its way to intimidate physicians and local governments so they obey the strict federal drug statutes. Fortunately for the critically ill, local governments have stuck to their guns. However, though the American Medical Association has gone on record supporting more research, the Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Agency have essentially frozen it. Because marijuana is not an approved drug due to this stonewalling, physicians cannot prescribe it, only recommend it.
With Janet Reno threatening to revoke physicians’ ability to write prescriptions if they recommend marijuana use, the atmosphere is not encouraging for dialogue or relief of the ill. This fact is probably the biggest obstacle to widespread use by the critically ill. Without FDA approval it cannot be manufactured (and regulated) like penicillin or AZT. Consequently, patients are more at risk by being forced to buy either off the streets, or in clubs — both sources more unreliable than a regulated manufacturer, say a weed Glaxo-Wellcome, would be.
Personally growing marijuana is, by all accounts, a substantial burden as well. A friend of mine back home tried to grow for his sick aunt, but due to the large space and close attention marijuana cultivation requires, he had to stop in spite of the moral and recreational benefits it would have brought.
Consequently, more research, FDA approval and more liberal drug policies are needed to make this drug more available for critically ill patients. Marijuana has proven itself useful in fighting the wasting diseases associated with AIDS, nausea associated with chemotherapy and other illnesses such as glaucoma. Easing the suffering of these patients is a reasonable goal.

George Willcoxon’s column originally appeared in Thursday’s edition of the Princeton University Daily Princetonian.