Marijuana for AIDS Sufferers

A Drug-War Victim

A Letter to the New York Times, December 5, 1994

To the Editor:

For many years, patients and their doctors have been unsuccessfully petitioning the Government to allow the medical availability of marijuana. Thousands of people suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, muscle spasms and pain, among other conditions, have found marijuana useful, and it is generally acknowledged to be less toxic than msny prescription drugs used for the same purposes.

Unfortunately, it seems that we have decided to give the war on drugs precedence over medical needs. Medical marijuana users have a justified fear that their medicine will be taken away and they will be jailed. Many users have already been charged and convicted despite both their serious illnesses and the testimony of physicians that their patients were taking marijuana for medical purposes. The Government takes the official position that the scientific evidence is insufficient to prove marijuana's medical usefulness, while apparently doing its best to prevent the research that could provide such evidence.

Dr, Donald Abrams of the University of California at San Francisco is seeking approval to study marijuana-smoking as a way of stimulating appetite in patients suffering from the AIDS wasting syndrome. Thousands of AIDS patients already use marijuana Illegally for this condition and report good results. For two and a half years the Government has been putting bureaucratic obstacles in Dr. Abrams's way.

On Friday, Dec. 9, Dr. Philip Lee, Assistant Secretary of Health, will convene yet another meeting to diseuss the issue of smoking marijuana to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients. Let's hope that concern for the health of suffering people will finally prevail over drug-war ideology.

Boston, Nov. 30, 1994

Dr. Grinspoon and Mr Bakalar are on the faculty of Harvard Medical School; Mr. Doblin is a graduate student at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.