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FDA Claims Marijuana Too Dangerous For Medical Purposes - This is Counter to Previous Government Findings - Studies Show Benefits for Nausea and Pain

April 21st 2006

FDA Claims Marijuana Too Dangerous For Medical Purposes - This is Counter to Previous Government Findings - Studies Show Benefits for Nausea and Pain


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that marijuana is too dangerous to be used as a medicine.  According to the FDA, marijuana “met the three criteria for placement in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1) (e.g., marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision).”

This new FDA finding runs counter to the previous independent report that shows the medical benefits of marijuana.  In 1997 the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) asked the Institute of Medicine to conduct a review of the scientific evidence to assess the potential health benefits and risks of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids.

The Institute points out that marijuana users can develop a dependence on the drug.  The FDA currently approves other drugs that cause dependency.  But the Institute went on to report that there are some medical uses for marijuana. 


Of course there are more studies on the adverse effects of marijuana than on its medical benefits.  The studies evaluated by the Institute showed that people suffering from minor pain did not benefit from marijuana.  But the most encouraging clinical data on the effects of cannabinoids on chronic pain are from three studies of cancer pain.  The Report States: “Cancer pain can be due to inflammation, mechanical invasion of bone or other pain-sensitive structure, or nerve injury. It is severe, persistent, and often resistant to treatment with opioids. In one study, Noyes and co-workers found that oral doses of THC in the range of 5—20 mg produced analgesia in patients with cancer pain.”  This study was a double blind placebo study.

Marijuana could possibly compete with other FDA regulated drugs.  For instance, marijuana could be an effective pain reliever.  “In a later larger single-dose study, the same investigators reported that the analgesic effect of 10 mg of THC was equivalent to that of 60 mg of codeine; the effect of 20 mg of THC was equivalent to that of 120 mg of codeine.”  Comment on this article at our Forum


Marijuana also appears to be helpful in treating nausea.  According to the researchers, “There were no reports of nausea or vomiting. In fact, at least half the patients reported increased appetite.”  The Institute says that the nausea side effects of chemotherapy can be so devastating that patients abandon therapy or suffer diminished quality of life. 

New anti-nausea drugs have become very effective.  Zofran, the new miracle drug for nausea, has shown much promise.  The problem is that each dose costs about $36 and lasts for 8 to 12 hours.  The Institute says that marijuana may be effective for patients that can not tolerate other medications. 

California passed an initiative that allows doctors to prescribe marijuana.  The federal government and some local agencies have fought this public initiative that was easily passed by the voters. This new FDA counter-claim is rather puzzling. 

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