When the Federal Appeals Court for the DC District begins taking evidence on October 16th in the appeal of the denial of a petition to reschedule marijuana from schedule I ( dangerous and having no medical value), to schedule II (dangerous but having medical value), one of the most important pieces of evidence to be presented will be the work of Dr. Igor Grant. Dr. Grant is a Professor of Psychiatry and is the Director of the state funded Center For Medical Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego. The Center has completed 13 studies on medical marijuana and has found that smoked and vaporized medical cannabis is effective and beneficial for patients suffering from cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and particularly chronic pain from a variety of conditions. These gold standard double blind studies also concluded that although there is some potential for abuse of medical marijuana, marijuana more closely resembles drugs in schedule III. Generally, adverse effects from marijuana use are mild to moderate and they decline over time. There have been no reports of overdose causing fatality from medical marijuana use.
Additional evidence likely to be used is the work of Dr. Donald Tashkin. His study of the possible connection between lung cancer and smoked cannabis resulted in some startling conclusions. As reported in Scientific American, the study of more than 2000 participants found no increase in the risk of developing lung cancer in people who use smoked marijuana. Those interviewed for the study included 611 cancer patients, 601 patients with head and neck cancer and 1,040 patients as controls. All participants were under 60. Additionally 80% of those with lung cancer and 70% of those with head and neck cancer had smoked tobacco while half of them smoked marijuana. As has been shown in many studies more tobacco smoking resulted in more cancers.
When researchers controlled for tobacco, alcohol and other drug use, smoking marijuana seemed not to have an effect. No link was found between smoking marijuana and developing head, neck, and lung cancer. The researchers concluded that marijuana seemed to have an anti cancer aspect to it and indeed other recent research has born this out. Research world wide supports the fact that marijuana is a relatively safe medicine effective for a number of conditions.
When the evidence is tallied up the Court will be left with only one conclusion. Marijuana is a safe and effective medicine and it should be rescheduled to more accurately reflect the facts regarding it’s use. This was the conclusion of the Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Francis L. Young in his 1988 decision, “The evidence clearly shows that marijuana is capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people and doing so with safety under medical supervision… it would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the Drug Enforcement Administration to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance”. In that case the DEA got a appeals court to overturn the ruling, this time, with the DEA’s back against the wall, reformers will be waiting anxiously to see how the DEA will respond to the courts ruling should it not be in their favor, panic can make for some interesting outcomes.