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WASHINGTON ? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it does not support the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
The FDA said it and other agencies with the Health and Human Services Department had "concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."
Eleven states, including Washington, have passed legislation allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, but the FDA said Thursday, "These measures are inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the FDA approval process and are proven safe and effective."
The statement contradicts a 1999 finding from the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, which reported that "marijuana's active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting and other symptoms, and should be tested rigorously in clinical trials."
In 1998, Washington voters authorized the use of marijuana for specified medical purposes, including cancer, HIV and intractable pain. However, marijuana cannot be legally purchased and there is no identified legal way to distribute marijuana in this state.
Dr. Greg Carter, a rehabilitation-medicine specialist at the University of Washington, said there have been good studies that support the medical use of marijuana for neuropathic pain, muscle spasms, chemotherapy-associated nausea and loss of appetite, glaucoma and several other conditions.
He noted that current federal rules allow doctors to write prescriptions for Marinol, a 100-percent concentration of the most active ingredient in marijuana.
The government classifies Marinol in the same category as Motrin, a prescription-strength anti-inflammatory, while placing marijuana, which is far less powerful than Marinol, among the most dangerous drugs for which there is no medical use.
"So there is clearly no scientific logic to their decision," Carter said. "I think this is politically driven."
Bruce Mirken ? director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports medical marijuana ? said the FDA issued the statement at the behest of Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., who opposes medical marijuana.
advertising Souder, chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Drug Policy, has said the promotion of medical marijuana "is simply a red herring for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use."
The FDA statement noted "there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful. ... There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana."
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