Vice Squad
Friday, March 05, 2004
Let's Talk about Marinol

I noted a few days ago that an Illinois legislator proposed a bill that would make it legal for individuals to possess marijuana for medical purposes. On Tuesday, the state legislature buried the bill in committee, likely until after the 2004 election.

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, deputy director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, noted that one of the effective components of marijuana, THC, has been approved for sale in the prescription drug Marinol, and that marijuana advocates ignore that fact. In a 1990 survey of Oncologists, researchers asked for comparisons on the effectiveness of Marinol and smoked marijuana. Forty-four percent believed smoked marijuana was better. Patients with severe nausea, which marijuana helps curb, are often unable to swallow pills. Further, because THC takes so long to take effect when ingested, it is difficult to develop appropriate dosage guidelines. Finally, Marinol is up to five times more potent than THC in smoked forms. Patients often report feeling more lethargic and "out of it" with Marinol than with smoked marijuana. A country where everyone walks around dazed and confused, which the federal government thinks is a forgone conclusion if pot is made legal for medical purposes, is actually far more likely if patients are using the already legal Marinol, than if they were smoking pot.

In keeping with the Bush administration's policy of not letting the American people participate in the governing process, Dr. Barthwell stated, "We never let the electorate decide what medicine is - we should not go down that pathway." What about when the federal government blocks access to legal marijuana for research purposes, despite recommendations from the National Institute of Health that marijuana may indeed have valuable medicinal qualities, and that further research is needed? When our representatives in the government fail us - in this case by blocking research proposals and stalling researchers - citizens have a duty to speak up. The electorate is not deciding what medicine is. The electorate is doing what our "elected" officials have failed to do - looking at current research that indicates medical marijuana is effective in helping some people, and calling for more unbiased studies on the issue.

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