MCCAFFERY STATEMENT OPPOSING MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION
SEPTEMBER 12, 1996
From the United States Information Agency Archives:
TEXT: (Calls California ballot proposition `dangerous and wrong')
LOS ANGELES -- White House National Drug Policy Director Gen. Barry McCaffrey said Sept. 12 a California ballot proposition to legalize marijuana for medical treatment is "dangerous and wrong."
McCaffrey told a news conference here that Proposition 215 would "make marijuana available to the public without following the scientific processes of the Food and Drug Administration for approval and regulation."
Joined by a number of community, medical and law enforcement leaders, McCaffrey said in a statement that "no medical research has shown marijuana to be safe, effective or therapeutically superior to other substances that have fewer side effects."
Following is the text of his statement:
General McCaffrey joins all federal agencies, along with major medical and health organizations, in rejecting the use of marijuana for medical applications. No medical research has shown marijuana to be safe, effective or therapeutically superior to other substances that have fewer adverse side effects. Furthermore, legal alternatives to the use of marijuana are available.
Many organizations that advocate the legalization of marijuana cynically calculate that the public will support further legalization if this substance is first approved for medical purposes. However, the claims for medical marijuana do not bear up under scrutiny. Major medical and health organizations, like the American Medical Association (AMA), American Cancer Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Association, American Academy of Ophthalmology, condemn production, use, and sale of marijuana and maintain that marijuana should not be legalized.
Synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is currently available in pill form for the treatment of HIV Wasting Syndrome and chemotherapy-induced nausea. Moreover, laboratory research in animals and humans has shown that use of marijuana, which is more carcinogenic than tobacco, compromises brain function, the immune system, the lungs, and hormonal responses to stress and metabolic change.
The California proposition is dangerous and wrong. First, it would make marijuana available to the public without following the scientific processes of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval and regulation. No consumer protection would be in place. Second, the initiative poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of drug enforcement and prevention.
The California attorney general and other prominent law enforcement officials assert that Proposition 215 will provide loopholes for drug dealers to avoid arrest and prosecution. Prevention professionals claim the proposition will damage efforts to convince young people to remain drug-free. The proposition sends our children the message that marijuana use is beneficial, that marijuana is medicine.
Finally, the proposition does not specify what patients or illnesses may require the use of medicinal marijuana. It legalizes marijuana for "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief" without naming any diseases. The proposition does not even require a written prescription or medical examination. Anyone with the oral recommendation of a physician can grow, possess, and use marijuana.
As medicine, this proposition is unworthy of the Middle Ages. As politics, it is dishonest. And its attempt to exploit human suffering, in the effort to legalize an illicit drug, is shameful. The voters in this country should not be expected to decide which medicines are safe and effective. These functions properly belong to the FDA. Consumer protection is not served by this proposition. Passage would set a dangerous precedent. The decision for or against approval should be based on scientific proof.