John Tierney is traveling in Amsterdam, giving him an opportunity to compare American policy to Dutch policy. Tierney doesn’t feel that the American drug czars understand the advantages to the more liberal Dutch policy:
The czars have preferred to criticize from afar. In the past, they’ve called Dutch drug policy “an unmitigated disaster,” bemoaning Amsterdam’s “stoned zombies” and its streets cluttered with “junkies.” Anti-pot passion has only increased in the Bush administration, which has made it a priority to combat marijuana.
More than half a million Americans are arrested annually for possessing it. The Bush administration can’t even abide it being used for medical purposes by the terminally ill. Why risk having any of it fall into the hands of young people who could turn into potheads, crack addicts and junkies?
But if America’s drug warriors came here, they would learn something even if they didn’t sample any of the dozens of varieties of marijuana sold legally in specially licensed coffee shops. They could see that the patrons puffing on joints generally don’t look any more zombielike than the crowd at an American bar — or, for that matter, a Congressional subcommittee listening to a lecture on the evils of marijuana.
And if they talked to Peter Cohen, a Dutch researcher who has been studying drug use for a quarter-century, they would discover something even more disorienting. Even though marijuana has been widely available since the 1970’s, enough to corrupt a couple of generations, the Netherlands has not succumbed to reefer madness.
More stories on Marijuana under the fold.
Posted by Ron Chusid
June 28th, 2006 @ 3:55 pm
I’ve often commented on the inconsistency between conservatives calling themselves advocates of limited government while supporting measures which increase government intrusion in individual’s lives. I’m happy to be able to report on the opposite–a conservative group which is actually supporting a measure to limit government where it needs to be limited. Citizens Against Government Waste has come out in support of an amendment to the Science-State-Justice-Commerce appropriations bill to stop the Drug Enforcement Administration from attacking medical marijuana patients in states where medical use of marijuana is legal.
Citizens Against Government Waste has also released a report entitled Wasted in the War on Drugs in which they blast the federal government for “using valuable taxpayer dollars to track down and persecute medical marijuana patients that are using the drug legally in their state.”
Posted by Ron Chusid
April 28th, 2006 @ 10:33 pm
I always find it amusing when conservative blogs get excited by a victory for conservative politicians in Europe, seeing this as a win for their team. What they fail to realize is that conservatives in much of Europe are far closer to our Democratic Party, while Republicans would be seen as an extremist fringe party. Reading the conservative British newsmagazine, The Economist, provides an example of how many European conservatives have no interest in the opposition to individual liberties expressed by the American right. My previous post on condoms indicates one difference between European and American conservatives. The Economist shows another example in their coverage of the FDA’s statement on medical use of marijuana:
IF CANNABIS were unknown, and bioprospectors were suddenly to find it in some remote mountain crevice, its discovery would no doubt be hailed as a medical breakthrough. Scientists would praise its potential for treating everything from pain to cancer, and marvel at its rich pharmacopoeia—many of whose chemicals mimic vital molecules in the human body. In reality, cannabis has been with humanity for thousands of years and is considered by many governments (notably America’s) to be a dangerous drug without utility. Any suggestion that the plant might be medically useful is politically controversial, whatever the science says. It is in this context that, on April 20th, America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement saying that smoked marijuana has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
The statement is curious in a number of ways. For one thing, it overlooks a report made in 1999 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), part of the National Academy of Sciences, which came to a different conclusion. John Benson, a professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska who co-chaired the committee that drew up the report, found some sound scientific information that supports the medical use of marijuana for certain patients for short periods—even for smoked marijuana.
The Economist reviews further evidence for medical use of marijuana, and the government’s attempts to suppress it. They interviewed Anjuli Verma, the advocacy director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and note a possible way around the government’s restrictions:
Ms Verma’s view of the FDA’s statement is that other arms of government are putting pressure on the agency to make a public pronouncement that conforms with drug ideology as promulgated by the White House, the DEA and a number of vocal anti-cannabis congressmen. In particular, the federal government has been rattled in recent years by the fact that eleven states have passed laws allowing the medical use of marijuana. In this context it is notable that the FDA’s statement emphasises that it is smoked marijuana which has not gone through the process necessary to make it a prescription drug. (Nor would it be likely to, with all of the harmful things in the smoke.) The statement’s emphasis on smoked marijuana is important because it leaves the door open for the agency to approve other methods of delivery.
Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has been working on one such option. He is allowed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (the only legal supplier of cannabis in the United States) to do research on a German nebuliser that heats cannabis to the point of vaporisation, where it releases its cannabinoids without any of the smoke of a spliff, and with fewer carcinogens.
That is encouraging. But it does not address the wider question of which cannabinoids are doing what. For that, researchers need to be able to do their own plant-breeding programmes.
In America, this is impossible. But it is happening in other countries. In 1997, for example, the British government asked Geoffrey Guy, the executive chairman and founder of GW Pharmaceuticals, to come up with a programme to develop cannabis into a pharmaceutical product.
Posted by Ron Chusid
April 20th, 2006 @ 9:56 pm
The New York Times reports that the F.D.A. Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. One of the costs of the Bush Administration’s war on science is that we no longer believe such claims from the government, denying the medical profession, and the public, the benefits we previously received of unbiased scientific analysis. The FDA says there is no benefit.
But scientists who study the medical use of marijuana said in interviews that the federal government had actively discouraged research. Lyle E. Craker, a professor in the division of plant and soil sciences at the University of Massachusetts, said he submitted an application to the D.E.A. in 2001 to grow a small patch of marijuana to be used for research because government-approved marijuana, grown in Mississippi, was of poor quality.
In 2004, the drug enforcement agency turned Dr. Craker down. He appealed and is awaiting a judge’s ruling. “The reason there’s no good evidence is that they don’t want an honest trial,” Dr. Craker said.
In other words, prevent studies and the Bush Administration can continue to use politics rather than science to decide the issue. Fortunately the Bush Administration has not been able to prevent all study of the issue:
With financing from the State of California, Dr. Abrams undertook what he said was a rigorous, placebo-controlled trial of marijuana smoking in H.I.V. patients who suffered from nerve pain. Smoking marijuana proved effective in ameliorating pain, Dr. Abrams said, but he said he was having trouble getting the study published.
“One wonders how anyone” could fulfill the Food and Drug Administration request for well-controlled trials to prove marijuana’s benefits, he said.
Opponents ignore the scientific research and attempt to decide the issue based upon their biases:
Opponents of efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal uses suggest that marijuana is a so-called gateway drug that often leads users to try more dangerous drugs and to addiction.
But the Institute of Medicine report concluded there was no evidence that marijuana acted as a gateway to harder drugs. And it said there was no evidence that medical use of marijuana would increase its use among the general population.
Dr. Daniele Piomelli, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, said he had “never met a scientist who would say that marijuana is either dangerous or useless.”
Studies clearly show that marijuana has some benefits for some patients, Dr. Piomelli said.
“We all agree on that,” he said.
Posted by Ron Chusid
January 3rd, 2006 @ 5:31 pm
George Bush, whose background from a family which totally lacks principles, is the natural flip flop champion, always being willing to say whatever seems best at the time to pick up votes. TheAgitator found yet another Bush flip flop, this time on medical marijuana. They found this entry in the October 20, 1999 issue of the Dallas Morning News:
Gov. George Bush said he backs a state’s right to decide whether to allow medical use of marijuana, a position that puts him sharply at odds with Republicans on Capitol Hill. “I believe each state can choose that decision as they so choose,” the governor said recently in Seattle in response to a reporter’s question.
Chuck Thomas, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a medical marijuana lobbying group, praised Mr. Bush as “courageous” and “consistent on states’ rights. I would hope he would be an example for Republicans in Congress.”
Aides said Mr. Bush does not support legalizing marijuana for medical use. But his position supporting state self-determination opens the door to medical marijuana use in some places. President Clinton and most Republican lawmakers, by contrast, oppose all state medical marijuana legalization laws, saying they could lead to abuse. . .
His position of opposing the medical marijuana but saying states should decide is unique among presidential contenders, Mr. Thomas said.
TheAgitator asks “what the hell happened?” They note the inconsistency between this statement and the current position of the Bush administration which has led to it threatening to revoke the federal DEA licenses of physicians who prescribe medical marijuana in states where it was legalized, overriding state self-determination. The answer to this question is simple. In 1999 George Bush was claiming to be a compassionate conservative. Now he is governing from the far right.
Posted by Ron Chusid
December 17th, 2005 @ 12:32 pm
David Friedman, libertarian economist and son of Milton Friedman, has started a blog. No guys, stop making those faces. There are people across the political spectrum with valuable things to say, and David Friedman is likely one of them.
One of his first posts suggests that Democrats go after the libertarian vote, such as by supporting legalization of medical marijuana.
This makes a lot of sense. Considering the degree to which Republicans have supported increased government intrusion in individual’s lives, as well as supporting corporate welfare over the free market, the Democrats are currently much closer to Republicans in libertarian beliefs. I remain amazed at the number of libertarians who continue to provide excuses for the Bush administration. While hard core, big-L Libertarians are unlikely to vote Democratic (and if consistent wouldn’t vote Republican either), this message may also be helpful in the individualistic western states.
Here’s another issue where the economic conservatives and the religious right will not agree–legalization of marijuana. From Forbes:
Milton Friedman leads a list of more than 500 economists from around the U.S. who today will publicly endorse a Harvard University economist’s report on the costs of marijuana prohibition and the potential revenue gains from the U.S. government instead legalizing it and taxing its sale. Ending prohibition enforcement would save $7.7 billion in combined state and federal spending, the report says, while taxation would yield up to $6.2 billion a year.
Later in the article:
At 92, Friedman is revered as one of the great champions of free-market capitalism during the years of U.S. rivalry with Communism. He is also passionate about the need to legalize marijuana, among other drugs, for both financial and moral reasons.
“There is no logical basis for the prohibition of marijuana,” the economist says, “$7.7 billion is a lot of money, but that is one of the lesser evils. Our failure to successfully enforce these laws is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in Colombia. I haven’t even included the harm to young people. It’s absolutely disgraceful to think of picking up a 22-year-old for smoking pot. More disgraceful is the denial of marijuana for medical purposes.”