“For most qualifying conditions,” they wrote, “approval has relied on low-quality scientific evidence, anecdotal reports, individual testimonials, legislative initiatives and public opinion. Imagine if other drugs were approved through a similar approach. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires evidence from at least two adequately powered randomized clinical trials before approving a drug for any specific indication.”
Oh, come on docs! You must realize that medical marijuana is an elaborate charade, a means of gradually legalizing an ancient herb that is currently used regularly by at least 10 percent of American adults. Like all those hundreds of herbs, potions and supplements for sale in every supermarket in America (e.g. valerian, ginseng, St. John’s wort, cod liver oil), marijuana was in use before there was an FDA and before there was a United States of America.
It was taken off the market in 1936, chiefly through the efforts of Harry Anslinger, the first director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Here’s a typical anti-marijuana screed of the 1920’s..
“By the tons it is coming into this country — the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”
We laugh at such overblown rhetoric today, but it worked. Marijuana was effectively demonized. Anslinger remained in his position until 1962, and the anti-drug culture that he helped create still informs American drug policies.
In fact, public opinion may be a more accurate indicator of a drug’s dangers or advantages than any FDA review. Tens of millions of Americans have used the demon weed, and tens of millions continue to do so. Using has undeniable risks, but those risks have long since been identified. And using has its benefits as well, as hundreds of thousands of ‘individual testimonials’ make clear.
Remember the mock advertising jingle?
“The seal of approval/Assures the removal/of anything bad at all.” And just so you knew this was serious stuff, the approval seal would bark.
FDA approval is relevant and appropriate for the newly formulated compounds and drugs that pharmaceutical companies seek to bring to market, but it’s meaningless for “medications” such as marijuana, and alcohol. Approved use is a political issue, not a medical one.
Early in the 20th century, prudes and politicos joined to ban first alcohol, then marijuana. Anslinger and his allies used tabloid-friendly lies and exaggerations to criminalize marijuana use, so you can hardly blame today’s advocates of legalization for using the genteel mask of medical use to further their cause.
And let me suggest that the good doctors at JAMA follow Bob Dylan’s advice of forty years ago.
“Everybody must get stoned.”
You’d think that JAMA would have better things to do than weigh in on the medical marijuana debate. If you’re looking at easily available drugs or supplements that are serious health risks, consider acetaminophen. According to Drugwatch, “(Acetaminophen) is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States, and the drug in some cases led to fatalities. The active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, accounts for more than 100,000 calls to poison centers, roughly 60,000 emergency-room visits and hundreds of deaths each year in the United States. In England, it is the leading cause of liver failure requiring transplants.”
And if that’s not enough, consider that acetaminophen is acutely toxic to cats and dogs.
Despite such problems, acetaminophen remains the most popular over-the counter pain reliever, with more than 28 billion doses consumed by Americans last year.