Arnold S. Trebach, J.D., Ph.D.
David C. Condliffe Esq.
Marjorie A. Rosner
ACLU, New York
Joseph D. McNamara, Ph.D.
Patrick V. Murphy
U.S. Conference of Mayors
Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D.
Lindesmith Center, New York
Chief of Police, New Haven
Wesley A. Pomeroy, Esq.
Independent Review Panel
Dade County, FL
The Hon. Kurt L. Schmoke
Joanne Sgro, Esq.
Ronald Sinoway, Esq.
The Hon. Robert W. Sweet
U.S. Dist. Court, So. Dist. N.Y.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 -- The Drug Policy Foundation today applauded the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for the first time in over five decades. The bill, H.R. 2618, was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). It is modeled on legislation sponsored in the early 1980s by several members of Congress, including Republicans Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Bill McCollum (Fla.), John Porter (Ill.) and Frank Wolf (Va.).
David C. Condliffe, DPF's executive director, said, "Most Americans are shocked when they learn that a doctor cannot prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients, including cancer and AIDS patients. Polls repeatedly show that the public favors giving doctors the authority to prescribe marijuana to patients who find no relief from other medicines. But the federal government has refused to budge. Barney Frank's bill would end this cruel policy and help thousands of Americans. His leadership on this vital issue is admirable."
Currently, 36 states have endorsed the medical use of marijuana. However, state acts that recognize marijuana's medical usefulness are mainly symbolic because the federal government has classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no officially sanctioned medical use. H.R. 2618 would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, along with cocaine and amphetamines, which are tightly regulated. The bill would establish an office in the Department of Health and Human Services to administer a domestic medical marijuana supply that would be distributed to patients through licensed hospitals and pharmacies.
Harvard Medical School professor and DPF Advisory Board member Dr. Lester Grinspoon said, "The fact that thousands of people daily break the law by going to underground Cannabis Buyers Clubs is powerful testimony to the importance of this legislation. These people are being open about using cannabis because it relieves their symptoms better than legally available medicines, not because they want better access to a recreational drug."
The Drug Policy Foundation Nov. 13,1995 News Release Page 2
"Even as an illegal drug, cannabis stands out among the modern medicines as a safe and effective treatment for a wide range of symptoms," Grinspoon added. "For example, it appears to be the best drug available to treat the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Cannabis can also be used to control the nausea from AIDS or the drugs used to treat it, to reduce muscle spasms brought on by multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, and quadriplegia, to lower intraocular pressure in people who have open-angle glaucoma, to suppress an epileptic's convulsions, to treat painful migraines. The list goes on."
DPF President Arnold Trebach said, "This bill would provide not just relief but dignity to patients suffering from life- and sense-threatening diseases. It makes no sense to force patients into a black market where neither their safety nor the purity of their medicine is guaranteed."
Trebach added, "The Drug Policy Foundation welcomes H.R. 2618 after having worked for years as lead counsel in a lawsuit to reschedule marijuana. One of the important results of that suit was that, in 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief administrative law judge agreed with us that marijuana was a remarkably safe and medically useful drug."
Since 1987, the Drug Policy Foundation has been a lead party in the suit to get the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug. Most recently, in February 1994, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., upheld the DEA's authority to maintain the medical ban on marijuana, despite evidence of its value.
Grinspoon, co-author of Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine (Yale University Press, 1993), commented, "My representative, Barney Frank, is making an invaluable contribution to medical science with his bill. It will spur more and better research on a drug that, through popular misunderstandings, has been wrongfully excluded from modern medicine. At the same time, we must recognize that cannabis is not a perfect drug and that it won't work for all patients. Still, it will be a major step forward when doctors and patients can exercise the choice to use cannabis - especially when nothing else in the pharmacopoeia works."
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ADDITIONAL CONTACT INFORMATION:
* For Rep. Barney Frank, call Robert Raben in the House Judiciary Committee at (202) 225-6906
* For Dr. Lester Grinspoon, call the Massachusetts Mental Health Center at (617) 277-3621