A meeting last December 9th at the Department of Health & Human Services was to have decided whether a privately funded study on the efficacy of marijuana for treating AIDS Wasting Syndrome would be allowed to take place. The study, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), would be performed by Dr. Donald Abrams of University of California at San Francisco, has FDA approval, and currently lacks only a legal source of marijuana with which to perform it. Dr. Philip Lee, Deputy Secretary for Health and Dr. Alan Leshner, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), had planned to make a final decision on whether NIDA would provide marijuana to Dr. Abrams for the study. (NIDA has a monopoly on legal marijuana production in the U.S. and has been providing it to researchers for decades -- though it would be a non-issue if the DEA granted the permits necessary to import it from abroad.) DRCNet members and other supporters staged a letter writing campaign to Dr. Lee in support of scientific freedom, and a letter in the December 5th issue of the New York Times from Dr. Lester Grinspoon and others on medical marijuana and the December 9th meeting brought the issue to the attention of a wider audience.
Our letters seem to have had an effect! Friday's meeting has been postponed until sometime later this month, presumably so Lee and Leshner can rethink their position in light of the substantial showing of public support for the study. The "other side" will no doubt use this time to lobby HHS to reject Abrams' request, so it's as important now as ever to keep up the pressure.
According to MAPS president Rick Doblin, Lee's staff has said the matter will be decided by Leshner, while Leshner's staff has claimed it will be decided by Lee. This time we're going to write to both of them:
Dr. Philip Lee Dr. Alan Leshner, Director Deputy Secretary for Health National Institute on Drug Abuse 200 Independence Ave. SW 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 10-05 Washington, DC 20201 Rockville, MD 20857 (202) 690-7694 (301) 443-6480 (202) 690-6274 (fax) (301) 443-9127 (fax)
If you've already written, you can use this time to:
1) Work on your Congressmen, Senators and state legislators. Ask them to contact Lee and Leshner in support of the Abrams study. They are probably in their home districts now, and many will be having office hours. If you don't know how to reach your Congressmen and Senators, you can find out through the Congressional Switchboard, at (202) 224-3121. [Remember -- even if they don't write letters for us, they will probably at least have their staffs inquire about it.]
2) Write letters to the editor, or ask reporters to write articles, explaining that while federal officials have cited the lack of scientific evidence for marijuana's medical value, they have simultaneously prevented scientific studies on it from taking place. Our government should allow and even encourage such studies, so that decisions on these matters can be based on knowledge, not prejudice. Make sure to specifically mention Lee and Leshner in your letters.
For more information on the Abrams study, contact:
MAPS, 1801 Tippah Ave.,
Charlotte, NC 28205
(704) 358-9830; (704) 358-1650 (fax);
E-mail: [email protected]
The stifling of medical research is the most embarrassing charge that can be made against the drug warriors, and is their point of least defense. We can win this one if we continue to demonstrate to the authorities that the public knows what they are doing. Keep up the good work.
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