March #21 : Whatever Happened to Mary Jane - by Walter Armstrong and Ronnilyn Pustil

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Table of Contents

Larry Kramer Gets Angry

Radiant Radical

Adventures in Brain Chemistry

Cackles, Cauldrons, and Carrots

Johnny Appleseed

The Way To a Man's Heart

Tools of the Trade

Life Imitates Art

S.O.S.-March 1997

Mailbox-March 1997

Notes of a Native Son

Out in the Cold

Cocktail Hour

Gallo's Humor

Vanity Unfair

Uh-Oh, Canada

Dental Damns

School for Scandal

"Provide" Services

Goes Around, Comes Around

Whatever Happened to Mary Jane

The Buddy Line

Rebel YELL

Bull's Eye

Body at Work

Alive and Kicking

ACTing UP All Over

All in Good Time

Tabling the Situation

POZ Picks-March 1997

ACT UP's First Days

5,985 and Counting

A Specific Point of View

Dead Gorgeous

Sex and the Single Positoid

Misplaced Lust

The Anger Channel

Dose of Reality

Feeling Blue? Much to Do!

Kicking Butt

Expand Your Medicine Cabinet

Wean on Me

Feeling Queasy? Help is Easy

The Right Stuff

A Load Off His Mind

Carbo Diem

Monkey Business

Taking Action

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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March 1997

Whatever Happened to Mary Jane

by Walter Armstrong and Ronnilyn Pustil

Feds pull rug out from under medical pot research

Last fall, fur flew as drug-war types fought to block the legalization of medical marijuana in California and Arizona. Buyers clubs around the country were padlocked, and advocates arrested. Even drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey weighed in, saying, "There is not a shred of evidence that shows smoked marijuana is useful." But voters passed the medical-marijuana measures anyway.

Caught in the crossfire, Dr. Donald Abrams, of the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, was denied federal approval to conduct a study on the herb's medicinal effects-despite the fact that experts day such research is needed to resolve the issue. "Critics say there's no scientific evidence that marijuana has any benefit," Abrams said. "In the meantime, we're not allowed to do a study." Numerous studies have shown that pot relieves nausea and pain, improves appetite and, in glaucoma sufferers, reduces eye pressure.

Abrams had initially designed an outpatient study to compare the use of the standard treatment, Marinol, or dronabinal-which contains pot's active ingredient-with smoked marijuana for treating AIDS-related weight loss. Both the Research Advisory Panel of California and the Food and Drug Administration gave him the go-ahead way back in 1994, but the Drug Enforcement Administration, which issues licenses to prescribe marijuana, turned him down. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which frowns on any study that might show pot to be beneficial, refused to provide Abrams with 5.7 kilograms of pot, claiming the study was unscientific.

So Abrams redesigned the study to test the effects of marijuana on hospital patients against a placebo. Surprise! Reviewers at the NIH told him marijuana was too toxic for people with AIDS-related wasting; they also worried that pot-smoking sick people who got the "munchies" might increase their cholesterol levels, leading to hardening of the arteries over time. "Our patients really don't have that luxury," Abrams said. The indefatigable researcher is now designing a safety study to look at the toxicity of marijuana.

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