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 realilze 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 diffrence 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.