Marijuana prohibition applies to everyone, including the sick and dying. Of all the negative consequences of prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medical marijuana to the tens of thousands of seriously ill patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
It is clear from available studies and rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is therapeutic in the treatment of a number of serious ailments and is less toxic and costly than many conventional medicines for which it may be substituted.1 Most recently, a federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) determined that, "Marijuana's active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting, and other symptoms" including multiple sclerosis.2 In some cases, marijuana appears more effective than the commercially available drugs it replaces.3
The best established medical use of smoked marijuana is as an anti-nauseant for cancer chemotherapy. During the 1980s, researchers in six different state-sponsored clinical studies involving nearly 1,000 patients determined smoked marijuana to be an effective anti-emetic.4 For many of these patients, smoked marijuana proved more effective than both conventional prescription anti-nauseants and oral THC (marketed today as the synthetic pill, Marinol).5 Dr. John Benson, Jr., co-principle investigator for the latest NAS report, concluded in March 1997 that "short term marijuana use appears to be suitable in treating conditions like chemotherapy-induced nausea" for patients who do not respond well to other medications.6 Currently, many oncologists are recommending marijuana to their patients despite its prohibition.7
Scientific and anecdotal evidence also suggests that marijuana is a valuable aid in reducing pain and suffering for patients with a variety of other serious ailments. For …