Ten years ago yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its landmark report that forever changed the public debate on medical marijuana.
In November 1996, California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The following month, the Clinton administration struck back, threatening doctors if they recommended medical marijuana to patients. But the American Medical Association and the American public responded with outrage and condemnation, throwing the Clinton administration off-balance. The next month, in January 1997, the White House drug czar's office attempted to deflect attention by awarding $1 million in taxpayer money to the Institute of Medicine to conduct a two-year study of medical marijuana.
In 1997 and 1998, MPP brought dozens of patients to a series of IOM hearings to testify about their fear of being arrested. Indeed, many of the patients had already been arrested and/or incarcerated for using medical marijuana.
Then, on March 17, 1999, the Institute of Medicine finally released a report that was not at all what the drug czar's office had hoped for. The report contradicted the claims of the drug czar and other federals officials on a number of fronts:
1. It showed there is scientific evidence indicating that marijuana has medical uses.
2. It recommended that people with AIDS, cancer, and chronic pain who have an urgent need for marijuana be provided with immediate legal protection while further research is done on marijuana's medical uses.
3. It debunked the "gateway theory," saying that there is no evidence that using marijuana will "lead" someone to use cocaine and other drugs.
4. It said there is no evidence that allowing sick people to use medical marijuana will cause an increase in the recreational use of marijuana.
That report has been used as the intellectual foundation of most medical marijuana efforts in the decade since.
MPP co-founder Chuck Thomas with IOM investigators in 1998
The release of that report was the first time that MPP received a barrage of national media coverage, all over the course of just two weeks. But that media coverage pales in comparison to the coverage that MPP and the broader marijuana policy reform movement has been receiving over the last four months.
This is now a lesson in "be careful what you wish for." As the marijuana issue continues to explode across the political landscape in nearly all 50 states, MPP and our allies are getting stretched more and more thin ... as we attempt to capitalize on the opportunities that are presenting themselves in the news, in state legislatures, in Congress, and at the ballot box.
Anything you can give to help fund these exploding efforts would be greatly apprecated.
Marijuana Policy Project
P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.