Denver Bar Association
April 2001
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Letter to the Editor

Medical Marijuana

We all want to help alleviate the suffering of the sick, but our collective interest is better served when proven scientific processes— not the ballot box — minister to disease.

American health has benefited from remedies whose safety and efficacy have been validated by statistically reliable evidence and randomized, controlled clinical studies. Arbitrary dosages, contaminated ingredients, and harmful or deadly components largely have been eliminated from American medicine. Marijuana referendums ignore such progress and return us to the medical dark ages when leaches were used to suck blood from sick patients. There is no sense in subverting the scientific process for assessing, testing, and approving medications by resorting to a non-medical, political process.

Any purported medicine smoked in unmeasured amounts and unknown purity is suspect. There are more than 400 chemicals in marijuana, and we know the effect of approximately 35 of them. Fortunately science has been able to produce a pill— Marinol— that isolates a therapeutic chemical in the cannabis leaf, THC. The FDA has approved Marinol based on sound research. Using this drug, doctors can regulate the dosage of chemicals that enters the body. The FDA has encouraged the pharmaceutical industry to develop other methods for administering THC— for example, by patch, suppository, or inhaler. Such developments may make it easier for more individuals to realize the possible therapeutic benefits of THC under controlled, prescribed conditions.

Colorado doesn’t need wholesale experimenting with unproven home remedies. Abandoning the science-based FDA process is irresponsible. The consequence of short-cutting this established process is prematurely available, inadequately tested medicines that could cause unnecessary harm.

—Daniel R. Petersen
Member, Denver Bar Association

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