Monday, August 17, 2009

The Case For Medical Marijuana

In a piece published in Forbes last week (, Rachel Ehrenfeld reports with dismay that the National Institute on Drug Abuse is presently soliciting proposals from contractors to grow marijuana for research and other purposes. Unfortunately, Ehrenfeld's misunderstanding of this request for proposals is so monumental that one doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Ehrenfeld suggests that this is some sinister part of "Obamacare." "For the first time," she writes, "the government is soliciting organizations that can grow marijuana on a 'large scale,' with the capability to 'prepare marijuana cigarettes and related products ... distribute marijuana, marijuana cigarettes and cannabinoids, and other related products' not only for research, but also for 'other government programs.'"

Ehrenfeld spends several paragraphs explaining how this is all the evil brainchild of George Soros, the pet villain of prohibitionists. After all, "Since when is the U.S. government in the business of distributing marijuana cigarettes?"

Since 1978, actually. The federal government has been distributing medical marijuana to a small group of patients for more than three decades via a program known as an IND (for "investigational new drug"). This program has been covered in the media from time to time, and still exists, although it was closed to new enrollment by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. It's not exactly a state secret.

In addition, under present (thoroughly dysfunctional) rules, scientists doing clinical research on marijuana must obtain the marijuana for testing from NIDA. Since the 1970s, the government has contracted with the University of Mississippi to produce marijuana for this purpose, and all expectations are that the university will get the contract again. In other words, there is nothing new here.

Having completely misconstrued NIDA's request for proposals as something new and sinister, Ehrenfeld proceeds with a selective, wildly distorted description of research on medical marijuana, claiming, "The evidence about the harm caused by marijuana to the individual user and society is overwhelming."

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