Federal Government Should Implement Medical Marijuana Research, Treatment Program, Washington State Senator Says
President Bush should demonstrate "simple compassion and common sense" and create a research program that would both provide marijuana to seriously ill individuals and monitor the effects of the drug on the patients, Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D) writes in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer op-ed. Kohl-Welles, a member of the medical marijuana advocacy group Coalition for Compassionate Access, writes that the Institute of Medicine in 1999 issued a report endorsing the creation of a program similar to the federal "Compassionate" Investigational New Drug program for marijuana that was created in 1978. Under the program, patients with "serious medical conditions" were eligible to receive a government-grown supply of marijuana, and each patient's physician monitored the effects of the drug on the patient's condition. When the 1990s brought a "flood" of applications to the program from AIDS patients, the volume "threatened to expand the Compassionate IND program into a much larger program that would have undercut the first Bush administration's insistence that there is no acceptable use for marijuana," Kohl-Welles writes. HHS closed the Compassionate IND program to new applicants in 1991, even though patients enrolled in the program were "clearly benefitting" from marijuana, she states. Kohl-Welles writes that the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has "overwhelming" public support and is endorsed by such medical groups as the American Public Health Association. The Bush administration should allow seriously ill patients to have access to medical marijuana under federal law and should implement a research and treatment program similar to the Compassionate IND project, Kohl-Welles says. Establishing such a program would "provide desperately needed relief to seriously ill people while giving policy makers the data we need to formulate a longer-term policy," she concludes (Kohl-Welles, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/27).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.