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Marijuana As Medicine

Marijuana As MedicineTufts Doctor Says Government Should Allow Physicians To Prescribe Drug To 'Very Sickest People'.

Boston [02.28.01] The debate over the medical usage of marijuana -- which has raged for years -- is headed back to the courts in March, when the US Supreme Court will decide whether "therapeutic smokers" are protected from federal and state drug charges because they use the substance for medical reasons.

While the courts prepare for the case, a high-profile Tufts doctor and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine says the government should re-evaluate its position on the medical applications of marijuana.

"Federal authorities must rescind their prohibition on medical usage of marijuana for seriously ill patients and allow physicians to decide which patients to treat," Jerome Kassirer told the Boston Herald on Sunday.

According to the Herald, many patients rely on marijuana for a variety of ailments. "Desperate to stave off the pain or sickness of multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy, glaucoma, asthma, migraine headaches and other ailments, [patients] cooperate in a vast illicit network, risking prison and profession to acquire their controversial 'herbal remedy' -- a substance the federal government rejects as a prescription medicine and classifies as a narcotic on par with heroin," the Herald reported.

The Tufts doctor , who was recently honored as the "Conscience of American Medicine" by the American Jewish Congress (AJC), told the newspaper that doctors should be able prescribe the drug to some patients.

"The government should grow it and oversee its distribution; and doctors should prescribe it, but only to the very sickest people," Kassirer told the Herald.

On Feb. 7, the accomplished physician was given the Distinguished Community Leadership Award by the AJC, which recognized Kassirer "as a caring physician, outstanding and innovative educator, inquisitive researcher and one of the leaders in espousing and promoting professional values."

Kassirer is no stranger to the debate over marijuana's medical value. While the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, he authored an editorial for the highly regarded medical journal in support of the therapeutic use of the drug.

Covering the editorial and Kassirer's comments, CNN reported: "Kassirer said marijuana is safer than drugs used legally for some of the same conditions, such as morphine. He wrote: 'If it relieves suffering, even for one patient, why not allow physicians to prescribe it?'"

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