On Oct. 20, the Washington Post published an inaccurate and arguably libelous anti-medical marijuana diatribe by Charles Lane on its Web site. After a deluge of complaints, the version now posted is cleaned up slightly: shorn of an offensive reference to Supreme Court medical marijuana plaintiff Angel Raich as a hypochondriac and with a feeble “clarification” appended. But it’s still a cascade of distortions and inaccuracies. Since the Post declined to print MPP’s reply, we thought we’d share it with you:
Setting the Record Straight on Medical Marijuana
Bruce Mirken and Mike Meno
Charles Lane’s column, “Medical marijuana is an insult to our intelligence,” (Oct. 20) was riddled with inaccuracies. Had Mr. Lane bothered to review the medical literature, he would have found not “hokum” and “snake oil,” as he calls it, but a small mountain of published, peer-reviewed research documenting that medical marijuana is a safe, effective, and sometimes even life-saving medication for many seriously ill Americans.
That’s not our opinion, it’s the opinion of a huge array of respected medical and public health organizations, including the American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and many others. In 1999, for instance, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine reported that “nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.”
In a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and other top experts stated, “For certain persons the medical use of marijuana can literally mean the difference between life and death. At a minimum, marijuana provides some seriously ill patients the gift of relative health and the ability to function as productive members of society.”
And last year, the American College of Physicians – 124,000 doctors of internal medicine – stated, “Evidence not only supports the use of medical marijuana in certain conditions
but also suggests numerous indications for cannabinoids,” marijuana’s unique, active components.
A series of recent clinical trials has documented marijuana’s ability to relieve what is known as neuropathic pain – pain stemming from damage to the nerves. This type of pain plagues millions of Americans suffering from HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and other ailments, and is notoriously resistant to conventional pain drugs. Marijuana has been unequivocally shown to safely relieve this type of pain, even in many cases where conventional painkillers have failed.
While it is true that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved marijuana as a prescription medicine, the reason for that is political, not scientific. The federal government has maintained a stranglehold on medical marijuana research, preventing the types of studies that would be needed for FDA approval. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts are still fighting the federal government for the right to set up a research facility designed to move medical marijuana through the FDA approval process.
Finally, a word must be said about Mr. Lane’s reprehensible attack on Supreme Court plaintiff Angel Raich, who, he says, “might consider a consultation for hypochondria, or perhaps marijuana dependency” – apparently because anyone with multiple medical problems must surely be making them up. Actually, the Court’s majority opinion noted that Raich and fellow plaintiff Diane Monson had made “strong arguments that they will suffer irreparable harm, because, despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes.” Raich is having highly risky surgery October 28 – surgery that her doctors had originally ruled out because it is too dangerous — because her brain tumor has now become life-threatening.
There is indeed much hokum in the medical marijuana debate, but it is coming from the opponents of medical marijuana, not the supporters.