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Marijuana’s medicinal value a ‘scam,’ Calif. leader says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP)–Rather than being a medical miracle, marijuana actually harms people, several studies indicate.

“After reading every available study on marijuana as medicine from medical journals from around the world, the truth became apparent,” said Art Croney, executive director of the Southern Baptist-supported Committee on Moral Concerns in Sacramento, Calif. “The push for medical marijuana is a scam. Marijuana makes sick people sicker.”

Marijuana suppresses the immune system, a sampling of studies agree.

“Most marijuana is contaminated with a fungus called aspergillus,” Croney said, citing a study released in October 1991 by the Boston University School of Medicine and reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“While generally harmless in healthy people, in AIDS and chemotherapy patients with compromised immune systems, the fungus can cause invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, which typically causes pneumonia,” Croney said.

Invasive aspergillosis has become increasingly common since about 1991, said Harry Hollander, director of the AIDS clinic at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco. Response to therapy has been poor. The average survival time from diagnosis to death is eight weeks, according to a June 1995 article in Internal Medicine News.

A number of other medical studies support those who argue against the medicinal use of marijuana.

Smoking marijuana increases symptoms in multiple sclerosis patients, according to a study reported in the March 1994 issue of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics. In addition, the marijuana made patients think they were improving when in reality their condition deteriorated significantly.

Marijuana use is not recommended as a cancer treatment or as a way to reduce nausea caused from chemotherapy, according to the National Cancer Institute. NCI scientists also warn “the presence of more than 400 potential carcinogens in marijuana smoke make it a problematic prescription for controlling nausea.”

Furthermore, smoking marijuana can’t be used efficiently for glaucoma because it is an imprecise method of drug delivery, Croney said.

“Marijuana proponents have flooded legislators and news media with incorrect information,” Croney summarized.

“They often cite studies that have shown positive medicinal applications. None are correct,” he asserted. “Claims are that a study by Meyers, Stanton and Dow prove tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in marijuana) relieves nausea and vomiting. But actually this study made no mention of smoked marijuana, only THC, which is presently legal and available with a prescription.”

Dronabinol, a government-approved anti-nausea medicine, contains marijuana’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, but does not produce the psychoactive high of the illicit drug. The prescription drug, marketed as Marinol, acts more slowly than marijuana and is more expensive, according to a report in The New York Times Dec. 31, 1996.

“My guiding principle in caring for a patient is that any medication that I use must be the best available treatment for that particular situation,” said Daniel Brookoff, oncologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee with special expertise in the distinction between the proper and improper use of controlled substances.

Marijuana has not been accepted as a medicine by the American Medical Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Glaucoma Society, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute or any other national medical association, Croney said.

There is no legitimate use for marijuana in treating any disease or condition,” Croney said. “Though it makes suffering people think they feel better, in most situations marijuana will make people’s conditions worse. It may even kill them.”

The editor of one of the country’s leading medical journals, however, has scolded the federal government’s attempt to keep the drug away from “those at death’s door.”

Jerome Kassireer, editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, called current federal government policy which forbids doctors’ prescription of marijuana “misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane.”

“Marijuana may have long-term adverse effects and its use may presage serious addictions, but neither long-term side effects nor addiction is a relevant issue in (seriously ill) patients,” Kassireer wrote in the Journal’s Jan. 30 edition.

“Federal officials are out of step with the public,” Kassireer claimed, noting numerous states have eased restrictions on the prescribing of marijuana by doctors. “Federal authorities should rescind their prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat.”