Press Release  | 03/17/1999

U.S. Institute of Medicine Study Benefits of Medical Marijuana Outweigh Risks, Long-Awaited Science Review Concludes

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - A powerful voice today gave a new level of support to access to marijuana for medical purposes. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, says in a new report released today that smoked marijuana is effective in treating pain, chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting, and the poor appetite and wasting caused by AIDS or advanced cancer. The IOM investigators declared that marijuana was not particularly addictive and did not appear to be a "gateway" to the use of harder drugs such as heroin or cocaine.

"When it comes to medical marijuana, public opinion and science are on one side, the drug czar and Congress on the other," said Ethan Nadelmann, founder and director of The Lindesmith Center. "Unfortunately the same can be said for much of U.S. drug policy. What's most needed now is a moratorium on the political grandstanding and fear-mongering that fuels the country's failed war on drugs. Americans will support common sense, science-based policies if given half a chance."

The IOM report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, makes the following points about marijuana's medical use:

  • "[I]t will likely be years before a safe and effective cannabinoid delivery system, such as an inhaler, will be available for patients. In the meantime, there are patients with debilitating symptoms for whom smoked marijuana might provide relief."
  • "[E]xcept for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."
  • "The short-term immunosuppressive effects [of marijuana] are not well established but, if they exist, are not likely great enough to preclude a legitimate medical use."
  • "AIDS wasting patients would likely benefit from a medication that simultaneously reduces anxiety, pain and nausea while stimulating appetite."

Based in New York, the Lindesmith Center is a drug policy institute that concentrates on broadening the drug policy debate. The Lindesmith Center (www.lindesmith.org) is a project of the Open Society Institute, the nonprofit foundation established by philanthropist George Soros to promote the development of open societies around the world. The founder and director of The Lindesmith Center is Ethan Nadelmann, J.D., Ph.D. , author of Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement (Penn State Press, 1993) as well as numerous articles on drug control policy in leading scholarly and popular journals.

For more information about the science behind the medical use of marijuana, visit http://www.medmjscience.org. Full text of the Institute of Medicine report executive summary is available at http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/marimed/.

Tony Newman at 510-208-7711

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