The National Institutes of Health panel on medical marijuana was convened over five months ago by National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Alan Leshner. At that time, Leshner announced that the report "should be available sometime over the course of the next four weeks." Well, it took five months, and the stunning conclusion? According to Dr. Paul Palmberg, professor of opthalmology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, "NIH review panels need to take another look" at funding of medicinal marijuana research.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) had obtained the official transcript of the panel's roundtable discussion, held at the NIH "Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana" on February 19-20, 1997. Despite the fact that the panel's composition was criticized by patients and activists as not representative of their views and experiences, the transcript revealed a very positive tone toward the efficacy and suitability of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Most of the medical professionals on the panel, in fact, made statements which directly contradicted the administration's position.
But despite the panel's positive early statements, the report "will have no bombshells" says Palmer. Chuck Thomas, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, says that the four month delay, which produced only a call for more research seems like a "stall tactic" and that earlier statements by the panelists suggest that this report could have been issued within the promised, four-week time frame.
According to Chuck Thomas, MPP's Director of Communications, "Seven of the eight panelists made very strong statements in support of marijuana's safety and efficacy as a medicine." He went on to say, "While the report calls for more research, that cannot justify continuing to throw sick and dying people in prison for their choice of medicine."
To read the MPP release in its entirety, including full quotes of the panelists' statements supportive of medical marijuana, and reaction to the report, visit http://www.mpp.org/nrnihrpt.html on the MPP's web site.
The NIH press release can be read online at http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/aug97/nih-08.htm, and has a link to the full text of the report.