July 3, 1999
Filed at 1:49 a.m. EDT
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government decision to ease restrictions on Marinol, a byproduct of marijuana used to counter symptoms of AIDS and side effects of chemotherapy, has unlikely allies: the nation's drug czar and proponents of medical marijuana.
Barry McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the capsule form of Marinol is the "safe and proper way" to make components of marijuana available to the public. "This action will make Marinol, which is scientifically proven to be safe and effective for medical use, more widely available," McCaffrey said Friday.
McCaffrey's stance was hailed by one marijuana advocate -- albeit for different reasons.
Geoff Sugerman, a medical marijuana advocate in Oregon, said "Here is more proof that the properties in marijuana really do work as medicine."
Oregon recently approved the use of marijuana with a doctor's consent, an action McCaffrey has opposed.
The Drug Enforcement Administration reclassified Marinol from a "Schedule 2" drug to the less restrictive "Schedule 3'' category. This essentially means that instead of being classified with drugs like morphine, Marinol is now classified with more widely used drugs like Codeine. Marijuana is classified as a "Schedule 1" drug, and thus cannot be prescribed by doctors. Activists like Sugerman have sought to change that classification.
"I don't see it (the reclassification) as negating the need to reschedule marijuana so doctors can prescribe it to their patients," Sugerman said.
Supporters of medical marijuana say patients who use it are able to get the benefits of dozens of other agents in marijuana that are not in Marinol.
McCaffrey, who has remained staunchly opposed to those efforts, said Friday's change by the DEA was the result of "pure science.
There's no politics involved."
Marinol is the only agent, or cannabinoid, in marijuana that has undergone
research and been developed into a prescription drug. First brought onto
the market in 1985, Marinol has been used to treat anorexia and weight
loss associated with AIDS and nausea and vomiting associated with cancer
chemotherapy. With the change in classification, Marinol can now be prescribed
by doctors with the possibility of five prescription refills in six months.
The change also lessens recordkeeping requirements and eases distribution
restrictions on the drug.