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AACM Calls for Withdrawal of Michele Leonhart Nomination

Doctors Oppose Obama's Nominee for DEA Head

The American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine (AACM) calls upon President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Michele Leonhart as Head of the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA.) The nomination of a known prohibitionist is inconsistent with President Obama’s stated policy on medicinal cannabis: that the federal government would stop wasting time, money, and staff on medical marijuana raids in states where medicinal cannabis use is legal. Not only is Leonhart out of touch with the policies of the president of the United States, but she is also out of step with science and organized medicine.

The American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, and American College of Physicians endorse the medicinal use of cannabis. In November 2009, the American Medical Association called for the rescheduling of cannabis to enable additional research by the medical community. The DEA, under Leonhart’s direction, continues to raid dispensaries and arrest patients in clear violation of state law, the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, and current federal policy.

Not only has Leonhart actively discouraged the use of medical cannabis, but she continues to halt progress in valuable clinical research. In January 2009 Leonhart blocked privately funded medical marijuana research in the U.S. She denied University of Massachusetts botany professor Dr. Lyle Craker, an expert in botanical medicine, a license to study cannabis like any other botanical medicinal, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s recommendation to grant the license because the research would be “in the public interest.”

On July 24, 2010, a new Veterans Administration (VA) policy on the medicinal use of cannabis went into effect. It states that if a veteran in a VA pain-management program who tests positive for THC in a state where medicinal cannabis is legal has a doctor’s approval, the VA will continue treating the patient. By acknowledging a patient’s right to medical marijuana, the VA gives tacit recognition to the beneficial effects of treating pain and PTSD with cannabis.

Recently, investigators from the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) published the findings of a series of randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials done at four University of California medical schools on the medical utility of inhaled cannabis. The studies concluded that the marijuana could be a “first-line treatment” for patients with neuropathy and other serious illnesses. Other well-controlled CMCR studies assessed the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis in treating patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, as well as whether inhaled cannabis impairs immune system functioning. Those studies determined that “smoked cannabis was superior to placebo in reducing spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis, and provided some benefit beyond currently prescribed treatments” and that “There was no evidence of acute impairment of immune function.”

The FDA’s chief administrative law judge (in a 1988 Finding of Fact) found cannabis to be “one of the safest therapeutic agents known” to man. A World Health Organization team of experts compared the health and societal consequences of cannabis to alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs. They concluded that “overall, most of these risks [associated with marijuana use] are small to moderate in size. In aggregate they are unlikely to produce public health problems comparable in scale to those currently produced by alcohol and tobacco. … [O]n current patterns of use in developed societies, the proportion of the population that uses cannabis heavily over a period of years is much smaller than the proportions that use alcohol or tobacco in a comparable way.”

The 20,000+ participants at the July XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna called for an end to the “war on drug users.” They pointed out that the drug war diverts scientific attention and urgently needed resources away from HIV-prevention research and voluntary drug-abuse treatment programs. In effect, the “drug war” is doing little to curtail the spread of AIDS because of its misguided efforts.

Leonhart has a record of being anti-science, pursuing failed policies, wasting federal funds, and ignoring the espoused policies of the Obama administration. The American Academy of Canabinnoid Medicine calls on President Obama to look at science, public opinion, his own policy statements, and the recently released National HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy and withdraw his recommendation of Leonhart to head the DEA. If that is not possible at this stage in the nomination process, then we call on our senators and representatives in Congress to use the confirmation process to clarify Leonhart’s contradictory views and proposed policies.

We urge the rescheduling of cannabis to a less restrictive schedule and wish to bring the enforcement priorities of the U.S. DEA in line with those of President Obama and the Attorney General.

The American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine is an important forum for the exchange of clinical information and ideas about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. Our mission is to foster high standards in the practice of cannabinoid medicine by sponsoring conferences and meetings relevant to cannabinoid medicine, providing diplomat certification for qualified practitioners, and educating physicians about the clinical therapeutic usefulness of cannabis. See our Web site for more information.

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