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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
June 20, 1995

Response to JAMA Article Titled "Marihuana as Medicine"

In response to an article titled "Marihuana as Medicine" that appears as commentary in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Thomas A. Constantine, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states, "I am very concerned about the JAMA commentary that advocates the medical use of marijuana. Marijuana is a listed as Schedule I under the Controlled Substance Act because it has a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use. The DEA will remain opposed to the rescheduling of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II because there are no proven medical applications for its use. In fact, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies and the American Cancer Society have rejected marijuana as medicine. Statements issued by these organizations express concern over the harmful effects of marijuana and the lack of solid research demonstrating that its use would do more good than harm."

Constantine states, "As a law enforcement officer, I am well aware of the problem that dangerous drugs have caused our society. The impact of drugs and drug-related violence is seriously threatening our quality of life."

"Just last year, the AMA issued a policy statement on marijuana that says, 'The AMA believes that cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.' Regardless of this recent article, I am encouraged that the official AMA position is consistent with the DEA's," stated Constantine.

Schedule I substances include such drugs as marijuana, heroin and LSD, for which there is no established legitimate medical use. As a Schedule I controlled substance, marijuana cannot be prescribed by physicians. Contrary to the inference of the commentary in JAMA, there is a procedure in place that allows qualified researchers to conduct well-designed, well-controlled studies of Schedule I substances including marijuana. Since 1971, the DEA has been accepting applications for clinical research of Schedule I controlled substances. At the present, there are 2,040 applicants registered to engage in activities with Schedule I drugs; of these 1,605 are for marijuana. This includes research activities of all types.

Those seeking to conduct such research must submit an application for registration with the DEA together with a protocol describing the nature of the research, measures designed to insure the safety of human subjects involved, and security measures to safeguard drugs acquired and used for the research. The DEA's responsibilities pertain to the safeguarding drug stocks, the necessary approvals of state governments, the history and professional standing of the staff, and the overall bona fides of the proposal. A copy of the protocol is immediately sent to the Food and Drug Administration for medical and scientific evaluation. After careful consideration of all of the factors involved, a decision is made by each of the two agencies according to their interests and responsibilities.

"At a time when drug use represents a major threat to our society, in particular our youth, it is extremely important to rely upon sound medical studies rather than anecdotal information to determine the proper place of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act." states Constantine.

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