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White House to Fund Medicinal Marijuana Study


January 1997

One week after General Barry McCaffrey said there is not a single shred of scientific evidence of the medical benefit of marijuana and threatened to strip physicians of their federal license to prescribe controlled substances, the Clinton administration announced an 18-month study of the literature on the therapeutic uses and health effects of marijuana (Office of National Drug Control Policy, "McCaffrey Announces White House Drug Policy Office Decision to Fund Review of Scientific Evidence on Therapeutic Effectiveness of Marijuana," January 7, 1997; Pierre Thomas, "White House Funds Study on Effects, Potential Therapies From Marijuana," Washington Post, January 8, 1997, p. A16; Associated Press, "Government to Spend $1 Million Studying Marijuana as Medicine," New York Times, January 9, 1997, p. B10).

According to a statement released on January 7, McCaffrey asked the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences to "provide a comprehensive assessment of the state of scientific knowledge and to identify gaps in the knowledge about marijuana." The White House said it would be willing to spend up to $1 million to examine existing clinical, medical and scientific evidence. Many scientists, doctors and patients have reported that marijuana has therapeutic uses for conditions such as cancer, nausea, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

Many AIDS activists, members of the public, journalists and newspaper editorials have criticized the administration for threatening to sanction doctors who recommend or prescribe marijuana under the two new laws. Some critics question the integrity of a medical marijuana study sponsored by the White House. "Putting McCaffrey in charge of this research is like putting Nixon in charge of the Watergate files," said Steve Michael, a spokesman for Act Up - Washington, DC, an AIDS activist group.

Copies of statements released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy can be obtained by contacting the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at (800) 666-3332 or on their web site at