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DEA Approves Test of Free Marijuana for AIDS Patients

November 24, 2000|From Associated Press

SAN MATEO, Calif. — The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has approved a program that will allow a Northern California county to give government-grown marijuana to 60 AIDS patients in a study to assess the drug's potential health benefits.

The 12-week study in San Mateo County could begin as early as January, county Supervisor Mike Nevin said. The DEA approved it Wednesday.

"What we could end up with is scientific proof that this is a medicine that should be prescribed by doctors," Nevin said.

In 1996, Californians passed Proposition 215, which allows possession, cultivation and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Implementation of the measure has proved difficult, however, as lawmakers struggle to agree on prescription and distribution guidelines.

Dr. Dennis Israelski, chief of infectious diseases at the county's hospitals and clinics, will oversee the study. The San Mateo County Health Center will provide marijuana to HIV and AIDS patients who suffer from neurological disorders.

Supporters of the study hope it will determine whether marijuana relieves pain and increases appetites, as many users say. Those who support marijuana's benefits say the drug also settles the stomach, builds weight and steadies spastic muscles. They also say it relieves PMS, glaucoma, itching, insomnia, arthritis, depression, childbirth pain and attention deficit disorder.

Nevin opposes decriminalizing marijuana, but said its medicinal value needs further evaluation.

"To disallow the drug to people who need it is a crime," he said.

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