—18— O’Shaughnessy’s • Summer 2010

For Howard Zinn:

LaGuardia and the Truth About Marijuana
“LaGuardia in the Jazz Age” in The Politics of History by Howard Zinn; Beacon Press, 1970. The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York by Mayor LaGuardia’s Committee on Marihuana. 1944. (Reprinted in 1973 by the New York Academy of Medicine.)
By Fred Gardner Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City when Howard Zinn was growing up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Zinn admired LaGuardia and in the end would have important things in common with him. LaGuardia had flown bombing missions for the U.S. Army over Italy during World War One. Zinn flew bombing missions over occupied France in World War Two. Both men would come to reconsider the worth of those missions. Both would spend their lives speaking for people whose voices hardly got heard. Marihuana Tax Act was answered thus by Vinson: “Our committee heard testimony of Dr. William Wharton —sic— who not only gave this measure his full support, but also the approval from the American Medical Association which he represented as legislative counsel.” The Act passed on a voice vote and was enacted into law in September of 1937. Fred Vinson, brazen liar, went on to become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Fiorello LaGuardia LaGuardia opposed sending 5,000 U.S. troops to Nicaragua in 1927 to uphold a government subservient to U.S. lumber and fruit interests. “The protection of American life and property in Nicaragua does not require the formidable naval and marine forces operating there now,” La Guardia declared. “Give me 50 New York cops and I can guarantee full protection.” Zinn wrote that LaGuardia did not see the 1920s as a time of “national political consensus, when a general mood of wellbeing softened political combat.” Angered by Rep. Fred Vinson of Kentucky’s reference to New York’s “Italian bloc” of voters, LaGuardia “denounced the drastic restriction of immigration and particularly the ‘national origins’ method of determining quotas... The restriction bills were ‘unscientific,’ LaGuardia charged, the ‘result of narrow-mindedness and bigotry’ and ‘inspired by influences who have a fixed obsession on Anglo-Saxon superiority.’” By 1937, when Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act, LaGuardia was in his fourth year as mayor of NYC. His nemesis, Vinson of Kentucky, was the Treasury Department’s key ally in pushing marijuana prohibition through the House Ways and Means Committee. Vinson conducted a hostile interrogation of the only witness who understood and strongly opposed prohibition, Dr. William Woodward of the American Medical Association. When the Act came before the full House, instead of explaining its provisions, Vinson recounted Harry Anslinger’s “reefer madness” testimony as undisputed fact. The question of whether the American Medical Association supported the gerated... “The scientific part of the research will be continued in the hope that the drug may prove to possess therapeutic value for the control of drug addiction.” In other words, the NYAM investigators —and Mayor LaGuardia himself— were hip to the harm-reduction potential of marijuana as a substitute for hard drugs! A key chapter of the report by Drs. Samuel Allentuck and Karl Bowman, “The Psychiatric Aspects of Marijuana Intoxication,” was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in September 1942. It specifically refuted the Federal Bureau of Narcotics characterization of marijuana as an addictive drug that led to insanity. An exhaustive investigation into the extent of use by New Yorkers was conducted by a Police Department squad— “two policewomen and four policemen, one of whom was a Negro,” according to Dudley Schoenfeld, MD, who described their findings in the LaGuardia Committee Report. (See excerpt on next page.) “While on duty the squad actually ‘lived’ in the environment in which marihuana smoking or peddling was suspected. They frequented poolrooms, bars and grills, dime-a-dance halls, other dance halls to which they took their own partners, theatres —backstage and in the audience‚ roller skating rinks, subways, public toilets and parks and docks. They consorted with the habitués of these places, chance acquaintances on the street, loiterers around schools, subways, and bus terminals. They posed as ‘suckers’ from out of town and as students in college and high schools.” The full Report,The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, was published in 1944. Its conclusions, verbatim: • Marijuana is used extensively in the Borough of Manhattan but the problem is not as acute as it is reported to be in other sections of the United States. • The introduction of marijuana into this area is recent as compared to other localities. • The cost of marijuana is low and therefore within the purchasing power of most persons. • The distribution and use of marijuana is centered in Harlem. • The majority of marijuana smokers
continued at bottom of next page

Marijuana prohibition might not have sailed through Congress if Fiorello LaGuardia had still been a member in 1937.
Marijuana prohibition might not have sailed through Congress if Fiorello LaGuardia had still been a member in 1937. It was based on false facts that no one in Congress questioned, but which LaGuardia recognized as baloney —notably that marijuana is addictive and leads to insanity and violent crime. In 1938 LaGuardia, as mayor, assigned the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) to investigate the premises of marijuana prohibition. A blue-ribbon committee of 31 scientists was assembled. Physicians from the city Department of Hospitals supervised clinical research involving 77 patients. “My own interest in marihuana goes back many years,” LaGuardia wrote in a foreword to the committee’s report, “to the time when I was a member of the House of Representatives and, in that capacity, heard of the use of marihuana by soldiers stationed in Panama. I was impressed at that time with the report of an Army Board of Inquiry which emphasized the relative harmlessness of the drug and the fact that it played very little role, if any, in problems of delinquency and crime in the Canal Zone. “The report of the present investigations covers every phase of the problem and is of practical value not only to our own city but to communities throughout the country. It is a basic contribution to medicine and pharmacology. I am glad that the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exag-

LaGuardia in Congress established Zinn’s reputation as a historian.
Zinn wrote his PhD dissertation on LaGuardia’s years as a Congressman representing the tenement dwellers of East Harlem. (LaGuardia served in Congress from 1917 through 1933, minus his stint in the Army and two years as President of the New York City Board of Aldermen.) LaGuardia in Congress, published by Cornell University Press in 1959, established Zinn’s reputation as a historian. It debunked the prevailing text-book image of the 1920s. Its themes were encapsulated in an essay, “LaGuardia in the Jazz Age,” which Zinn published in The Politics of History (Beacon, 1970). “In the United States, the twenties were the years of Prosperity, and Fiorello LaGuardia is one of its few public figures who suspected to what extent that label was a lie,” Zinn asserted. Nor did LaGuardia mistake the twenties for “a time of quiet isolation from foreign affairs,” Zinn wrote. “The United States was established as a dominant power in the Caribbean having purchased the Virgin Islands during the war, possessing a naval base in Cuba, and exercising such control over the Republic of Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic as to make them ‘virtual protectorates.’ American influence in the Far East extended from the Aleutian Islands to Hawaii and across the western Pacific to the Philippines.”

The Canal Zone Papers
Studies by the U.S. Army of soldiers using marijuana in Panama in the 1920s had been collectively ignored by the Congress during the debate on Prohibition. The first study was conducted in April 1925 by a committee chaired by Colonel J.F. Siler of the Medical Corps. A group that included soldiers, doctors, and police officers was observed smoking cannabis. One officer who participated concluded, “I think we can safely say, based upon samples we have smoked here and upon the reports of the individuals concerned, that there is nothing to indicate any habit-forming tendency or any striking ill effects. All of the statements to the effect that two or three puffs produce remarkable effects are nonsense, judging from our experience.” The U.S. government printing office published Col. Siler’s report (“Canal Zone Papers,” 1931), which found no evidence that marijuana was addictive or that it had “any appreciable deleterious influence on the individuals using it.” According to “the Great Book of Hemp” by Rowan Robinson, “Some commanders disagreed with the committeee’s findings and ordered a new investigation in 1929. The surgeon general who directed the inquiry duly reported that ‘use of the drug is not widespread and... its effects upon military efficiency and upon discipline are not great.’ A third investigation, initiated in June 1931, found no link between cannabis and delinquency or morale problems” in the U.S.-run Canal Zone.

The 220-page LaGuardia Committee Report was reprinted in full in The Marijuana Papers, an anthology edited by David Solomon, published by Bobbs-Merrill in 1966 and in paperback the following year by Signet.

O’Shaughnessy’s • Summer 2010 —19—

What LaGuardia’s Police Investigators Found

Marijuana Use in New York City... All Those Years Ago
From The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, also known as “The LaGuardia Committee Report.” Method of Retail Distribution In general, marihuana is used in the form of a cigarette. Occasionally some individuals chew the “weed” and seem to get the same effect as do others through smoking. The common names for the cigarettes are: muggles, reefers, Indian hemp, weed, tea, gage and sticks. Cigarettes made of marihuana differ in size as do cigarettes made of tobacco: they are long, short, thick or thin.

A person may be a confirmed smoker for a prolonged period, and give up the drug voluntarily without experiencing any craving for it or exhibiting withdrawal symptoms.
in most instances, a rented nickelodeon. The lighting is more or less uniformly dim, with blue predominating. An incense is considered part of the furnishings. The walls are frequently decorated with pictures of nude subjects suggestive of perverted sexual practices. The furnishings, as described, are believed to be essential as a setting for those participating in smoking marihuana. Most “tea-pads” have their trade restricted to the sale of marihuana. Some places did sell marihuana and whisky, and a few places also served as houses of prostitution. Only one “teapad” was found which served as a house of prostitution, and in which one could buy marihuana, whisky, and opium. The marihuana smoker derives greater satisfaction if he is smoking in the presence of others. His attitude in the “tea-pad” is that of a relaxed individual, free from the anxieties and cares of the realities of life. The “tea-pad” takes on the atmosphere of a very congenial social club. The smoker readily engages in conversation with strangers, discussing freely his pleasant reactions to the drug and philosophizing on subjects pertaining to life in a manner which, at times, appears to be out of keeping with his intellectual level. A constant observation was the extreme willingness to share and puff on each other’s cigarettes. A boisterous, rowdy atmosphere did not prevail and on the rare occasions when there appeared signs indicative of a belligerent attitude on the part of a smoker, he was ejected or forced to become more tolerant and quiescent.
continued on next page

Price varies in accordance with the accepted opinion as to the potency of the marihuana used in the cigarettes,
The price varies in accordance with the accepted opinion as to the potency of the marihuana used in the cigarettes, and this appears to be determined by the place of origin. The cheapest brand is known as “sass-fras,” and retails for approximately three for 50 cents. It is made of the marihuana that is grown in the United States. Smokers do not consider such marihuana very potent. They have found that they must consume a greater number of cigarettes in order to obtain the desired effect colloquially termed as “high.” This opinion, expressed by smokers in the Borough of Manhattan, is at variance with that of some authorities who believe that marihuana grown in the United States is as potent as the marihuana grown in other countries. The “panatella” cigarette, occasionally referred to as “meserole,” is considered to be more potent than the “sassfras” and usually retails for approximately 25 cents each. The hemp from which the “panatella” is made comes from Central and South America. “Gungeon” is considered by the marihuana smoker as the highest grade of
ARTIST WILLIAM H. JOHNSON was employed by the federal Works Progress Administration to teach art in Harlem in 1938.

marihuana. It retails for about one dollar per cigarette. The “kick” resulting from the use of this cigarette is reached more quickly than from the use of “sassafras” or “panatella.” It appears to be the consensus that the marihuana used to make the “gungeon” comes from Africa. The sale of this cigarette is restricted to a clientele whose economic status is of a higher level than the majority of marihuana smokers.

A constant observation was the extreme willingness to share and puff on each other’s cigarettes.
There are two channels for the distribution of marihuana cigarettes— the independent peddler and the “tea-pad.” From general observations, conversations with “pad” owners, and discussions with peddlers, the investigators estimated that there were about 500 “teapads” in Harlem and at least 500 peddlers. A “tea-pad” is a room or an apartment in which people gather to smoke marihuana. The majority of such places are located in the Harlem district. It is our impression that the landlord, the agent, the superintendent or the janitor is aware of the purposes for which the premises are rented. The “tea-pad” is furnished according to the clientele it expects to serve. Usually, each “tea-pad” has comfortable furniture, a radio, victrola or, as

The investigators estimated that there were about 500 “teapads” in Harlem and at least 500 peddlers.
A confirmed marihuana user can readily distinguish the quality and potency of various brands, just as the habitual cigarette or cigar smoker is able to differentiate between the qualities of tobacco. Foreign-made cigarette paper is often used in order to convince the buyer that the “tea is right from the boat.”

Zinn/LaGuardia from previous page
are Blacks and Latin-Americans. • The consensus among marijuana smokers is that the use of the drug creates a definite feeling of adequacy. • The practice of smoking marijuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word. • The sale and distribution of marijuana is not under the control of any single organized group. • The use of marijuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marijuana smoking. • Marijuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes. • Marijuana smoking is not widespread among school children. • Juvenile delinquency is not associated with the practice of smoking marijuana. • The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marijuana smoking in New York City is unfounded. Impact of the Report Although the LaGuardia Committee provided evidence and documentation in support of its findings, the Report was ignored at the federal level —as would other painstaking commission reports by government agencies and the medical establishment in the decades to follow. In 1973 the New York Academy of Medicine reprinted the Report with a foreword by Raymond Schafer, the former governor of Pennsylvania, who had been appointed by President Richard Nixon in 1970 to chair a commission on “Marihuana and Drug Abuse.” (See story on page 24.)

The “Left” and Marijuana
In the political milieu from which Howard Zinn emerged, marijuana use was looked down on. This disapproval by the “old left” was rooted in ignorance (the Communist Party fell for Anslinger’s disinformation), but it had a practical application. If you were, say, a union organizer, you wouldn’t want to give management spies an excuse to report you to the cops. The fight for higher wages and better working conditions would take precedence over your desire to smoke reefer (which was almost certainly nil, because few Americans, especially white folks, had ever touched the stuff) The “new left” of the ’60s had a different attitude towards marijuana because millions of people on college campuses and in the military had started smoking it by 1966, and recognized that it wasn’t dangerous. Freedom to smoke marijuana became an auxiliary goal of “the movement” that was primarily aimed at ending racial segregation and bringing the troops home from Vietnam. In 1968 or ‘69 Howard’s son Jeff Zinn was working at a coffeehouse that was a hangout for GIs from Fort Jackson. One day the Military Police came to the house where Jeff was staying to arrest a GI who lived there. They took the soldier away (he hadn’t showed up to sign his discharge papers on what was supposed to

be his last day in the Army) and notified the local police that they had observed marijuana in the house. “Maybe a couple of roaches,” Jeff recalls. He was arrested and wound up in the county jail. He was told that because he was not a South Carolina resident, he could not be bailed out —the whole bond would have to be put up. “My parents were very upset,” Jeff says. “If I had been busted on a picket line, that would have been fine, but not getting busted for pot.” He was set free after three days and told to never again set foot in the state. Jeff Zinn, a hard-working theater director, has no regrets about not revisiting South Carolina or about giving up marijuana use in his early thirties.

The Communist Party Line on Marijuana
The New York Academy of Medicine report includes an example of a “reefer madness” story from the Daily Worker for Dec. 28, 1940. Headlined “Health Advice,” the Communist line on marijuana could easily have come from a William Randolph Hearst paper —minus any racist overtones, of course: “Smoking of the weed is habit-forming. It destroys the will-power, releases restraints, and promotes insane reactions. Continued use causes the face to become bloated, the eyes bloodshot, the limbs weak and trembling, and the mind sinks into insanity. Robberies, thrill murders, sex crimes and other offenses result... The habit can be cured only by the most severe methods. The addict must be put into an institution, where the drug is gradually withdrawn...”

HOWARD ZINN (left) in Berkeley, February 2009. He was staying with a granddaughter, getting away from the cold Boston winter. That’s what he was doing in Santa Monica when he died of a heart attack in late January of this year. —F.G.

—20— O’Shaughnessy’s • Summer 2010

NYPD Report from previous page
One of the most interesting setups of a “tea-pad,” which was clearly not along orthodox lines from the business point of view, was a series of pup tents arranged on a roof-top in Harlem. Those present proceeded to smoke their cigarettes in the tents. When the desired effect of the drug had been obtained they all merged into the open and engaged in a discussion of their admiration of the stars and the beauties of nature. Because of the possibility of spreading disease, note should be taken of what seems to be a custom known as “pickup” smoking. It is an established practice whereby a marihuana cigarette is lit and after one or two inhalations is passed on to the next person. This procedure is repeated until all present have had an opportunity to take a puff or two on the cigarette. Occasionally a “tea-pad” owner may have peddlers who sell their wares in other localities and at the same time serve as procurers for those who wish to smoke marihuana on the premises. One also finds other methods of retail distribution. After proper introduction, one may be able to purchase the cigarette in certain places. This is not an easy procedure, but it can be accomplished. In some bar-and-grills, restaurants, and bars our investigators were able to establish contact with someone who in turn, would introduce them to a our investigators associate with a marihuana user. The investigator would bring up the subject of smoking. This would invariably lead to the suggestion that they obtain some marihuana cigarettes. They would seek a “tea-pad,” and if it was closed the smoker and our investigator would calmly resume their previous activity, such as the discussion of life in general or the playing of pool. There were apparently no signs indicative of frustration in the smoker at not being able to gratify the desire for the drug. We consider this point highly significant since it is so contrary to the experience of users of other narcotics. A similar situation occurring in one addicted to the use of morphine, cocaine, or heroin would result in a compulsive attitude on the part of the addict to obtain the drug. If unable to secure it, there would be obvious

We have been unable to confirm the opinion expressed by some investigators that marihuana smoking is the first step in the use of such drugs as cocaine, morphine, and heroin.
It is their contention that this mild alcoholic beverage aids the drug in producing the desired effect. Most marihuana smokers insist that the appetite is increased as the result of smoking. We have been unable to confirm the opinion expressed by some investigators that marihuana smoking is the first step in the use of such drugs as cocaine, morphine, and heroin. The instances are extremely rare where the habit of marihuana smoking is associated with addiction to these other narcotics. Marihuana and Eroticism In the popular agitation against the use of marihuana, its erotic effects have been stressed repeatedly. As previously stated in this report, our investigators visited many “tea-pads” in the Borough of Manhattan. It is true that lewd pictures decorated the walls but they did not find that they were attracting attention or comment among the clientele. In fact one of the investigators who was concentrating his attention on the relation between marihuana and eroticism stated in his report that he found himself embarrassed in that he was the only one who examined the pictures on the wall. Numerous conversations with smokers of marihuana revealed only occasional instances in which there was any relation between the drug and eroticism. At one time one of our investigators attended a very intimate social gathering in an apartment in Harlem, having succeeded in securing the position of doorman for the occasion. There was a great deal of drinking, and the dancing was of the most modern, abandoned, “jitter-bug” type. This form of dancing is highly suggestive and appears to be associated with erotic activity. The investigator made careful observation of those who were dancing, and found that there was no difference between the ones who were and the ones who were not smoking “reefers.” Similar impressions were received after careful observations in public dance halls, places where they knew that some persons were under the influence of marihuana. Visits to brothels which occasionally also served as “teapads” revealed that the use of marihuana was not linked to sexuality. These observations allow us to come to the conclusion that in the main marihuana was not used for direct sexual stimulation.


couraged, nothing was done to prohibit such practice. There are specific sections in the Borough of Manhattan where the sale of marihuana cigarettes appears to be localized: 1) the Harlem district; 2) the Broadway area, a little east and west of Broadway and extending from 42nd Street to 59th Street. While it is true that one may buy the cigarette in other districts, it is not as easily obtainable as in the two localities mentioned.

The consensus of marihuana users is that the drug is not harmful and that infrequent or constant use of marihuana does not result in physical or mental deterioration.
The Mental Attitude of the Marihuana Smoker Toward Society Most of the smokers of marihuana coming within the scope of our survey were unemployed, and of the others most had part-time employment. Occasional, as well as confirmed, users were all aware of the laws pertaining to the illegal use of the drug. They did not indulge in its use with a spirit of braggadocio or as a challenge to law as has been reported by some investigators in other districts. They did not express remorse concerning their use of marihuana, nor did they blame this habit as a causative factor in the production of special difficulties in their personal lives. Except for musicians there appeared to be no attempt at secretiveness on the part of the habitual smoker. This attitude is in marked contrast to that usually taken by those addicted to morphine, cocaine, or heroin. The consensus of marihuana users is that the drug is not harmful and that infrequent or constant use of marihuana does not result in physical or mental deterioration. In describing the most common reaction to the drug they always stated that it made them feel “high.” Elaboration of just what the smoker meant by “high” varied with the individual. However, there was common agreement that a feeling of adequacy and efficiency was induced by the use of marihuana and that current mental conflicts were allayed. Organic illness was not given as a cause for smoking “reefers.” A person may be a confirmed smoker for a prolonged period, and give up the drug voluntarily without experiencing any craving for it or exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. He may, at some time later on, go back to its use. Others may remain infrequent users of the cigarette, taking one or two a week, or only when the “social setting” calls for participation. From time to time we had one of
Blind Singer

A Flower for Teacher

peddler who apparently made regular rounds of these places in order to sell cigarettes. It appears that the owners of such places are not aware of this practice, and in many instances they would discharge any employee known to be directly or indirectly associated with the sale of marihuana. On rare occasions public guides, if properly approached would refer one to a place where the “reefer” could be bought. There was no evidence that the guide received money when acting as gobetween. Terminal porters, mainly Negroes, appeared to be more directly connected with the traffic of marihuana. They were more conversant with the subject and it was easier for them to establish contact between purchaser and peddler. Marihuana smoking is very common in the theatres of Harlem according to the observations of the investigators. We have reason to believe that in some instances, perhaps few in number, employees actually sold cigarettes on the premises. In the Harlem dance halls smoking was frequently observed either in the lavatories or on the main floor. The patrons as well as the musicians were seen in the act of smoking. There was no evidence of sales being made by employees on the premises, or that there was any gain on the part of the owners or employees in permitting this practice. Whereas the smoking of marihuana was not en-

physical and mental manifestations of frustration. This may be considered presumptive evidence that there is no true addiction in the medical sense associated with the use of marihuana. The confirmed marihuana smoker consumes perhaps from six to ten cigarettes per day. He appears to be quite conscious of the quantity he requires to reach the effect called “high.” Once the desired effect is obtained he cannot be persuaded to consume more.

He knows when he has had enough. The smoker determines for himself the point of being “high,” and is ever conscious of preventing himself from becoming “too high.”
He knows when he has had enough. The smoker determines for himself the point of being “high,” and is ever conscious of preventing himself from becoming “too high.” This fear of being “too high” must be associated with some form of anxiety which causes the smoker, should he accidentally reach that point, immediately to institute measures so that he can “come down.” It has been found that the use of such beverages as beer, or a sweet soda pop, is an effective measure. Smokers insist that “it does something to the stomach” and that it is always associated with “belching.” A cold shower will also have the effect of bringing the person “down.” Smokers have repeatedly stated that the consumption of whisky while smoking negates the potency of the drug. They find it is very difficult to get “high” while drinking whisky, and because of that smokers will not drink whisky while using the “weed.” They do, however, consume large quantities of sweet wines.

Jitterbugs 2

—28— O’Shaughnessy’s • Summer 2010

A Stall in the Name of Science

The Institute of Medicine Report (1999)
Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Sci- American people. “We Should Use Science, Not the ence Base, edited by Janet Joy, Stanley J. Ballot Box, to Minister to Disease,” wrote McCaffrey, Watson, Jr. and John Benson Jr. National Acad- echoing Varmus, in one of his syndicated op-ed pieces.
emy Press, Washington, 1999, 267 pages. Why, you may wonder, was another federal study into the safety and efficacy of marijuana as medicine undertaken in the late 1990s? Here’s the chronology: In November, 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215 by a 56-44 margin. Within weeks, Attorney General Dan Lungren led a delegation to Washington to urge federal officials to block implementation. On Dec. 30 Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, flanked by Attorney General Janet Reno, Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, and NIDA head Alan Leshner held a press conference to declare the Clinton Administration’s opposition to medical marijuana. McCaffrey declared, “This isn’t medicine, this is a Cheech and Chong show.” He warned that MDs who approved marijuana use by patients could lose their licenses. “Crude marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, and we know the effect of only a few... The active ingredient in the cannabis leaf, THC, is synthesized in measured dosages as Marinol, a prescription drug that has been available for years.” “Crude” marijuana means the plant as it grows in nature. Among some 600 components, the main psychoactive ingredient is THC. The effects of some of the other major components have been determined. Marinol comes in a knockout dose, whereas drawing on a joint gives patients the precise minimum amount of the drug needed to alleviate their symptoms ASAP. “No one argues that people should eat moldy bread instead of taking a penicillin capsule,” wrote McCaffrey. (More relevant is the fact that penicillin was approved for use after its efficacy was proven on just six patients.) “If components of marijuana other than THC are found to be medically valuable,” he reassured the American people, “the current scientific process will approve those components for safe use.” Having claimed for years that marijuana had no beneficial effects whatsoever, the drug warriors now promised that the pharmaceutical industry would deliver us the “good” part of the plant without the “bad.” Which is fine —many people want the anticonvulsant effects without psychoactivity. What’s reprehensible is keeping the plant illegal while “more research” gets conducted indefinitely. The IOM report, finally released in March 1999— • confirmed that marijuana has been effective in treating chronic pain, nausea from cancer chemotherapy, lack of appetite and wasting in AIDS patients. • strongly advocated research into and development of cannabinoid drugs. • debunked the notions that marijuana is addictive and that its use leads to heroin and cocaine use. • noted that marijuana has a lower potential for abuse than alcohol or tobacco, and is safer than many commonly used drugs. users are misleadingly presented as effects on chronic users. The IOM researchers conveniently ‘distanced’ from and discounted numerous subjective accounts from patients. Their chronic skepticism —rationalized as objectivity yet politically driven— is grotesque and unethical. They did not look at data from when marijuana was in clinical use prior to Prohibition. “The IOM investigators went to great lengths to get input from medical marijuana users, but they failed to incorporate it in their findings. For example, they warn about the dangers of smoking, but fail to note the proactive efforts of users to develop less harmful vaporization techniques. “Unwillingness to believe or trust numerous cannabis users is the worst aspect of the report and results in a lack of clinical information. Left out is the reason patients use cannabis in the first place —it works, and with minimal toxicity for chronic conditions. “By failing to acknowledge the relative freedom from adverse effects (when cannabis is compared with “conventional” medicines) the IOM perpetuates the false stereotype of a dangerous drug. The investigators made a conscious decision to avoid discussing the stress and harm caused by inappropriate use of the criminal justice system and widespread medical ignorance. Why? Negligent design! All previous studies — starting with the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission in 1894— included sociopolitical information. “The recommendation to limit short-term treatment to six months ignores the needs of patients who suffer from serious chronic illnesses, i.e., most patients who could benefit from cannabis. “Another error of omission is the use of cannabis as a treatment for patients suffering from mood disorders, alcoholism, and other chemical dependence. Substituting cannabis to reduce harm to the user has been known since 1843 and widely cited in medical and pharmaceutical literature until the Prohibition of 1938. “It is worth recalling —and highly ironic— that the initial motivation for the medical marijuana movement was the 1991 decision by Undersecretary of Health, James O. Mason, MD, to close down the compassionate IND [Investigational New Drug] program. This cruel and unethical act in the midst of the AIDS epidemic sparked a populist revolt. “Starting with Dennis Peron and AIDS activists in San Francisco, cannabis buyers clubs were formed on a ‘speakeasy’ model enabled by local political support. Medical marijuana users found shelter from predation on the streets. Fellowship with other patients provided respite and a safe haven for victims of chronic illness. The California cannabis centers represented a rebellion against the prohibitionist-corrupted breakdown of healthcare delivery. In November, 1996, voters showed that the rebellion had majority support by passing the California Compassionate Use Act —despite opposition from the White House and the California Attorney General’s office. “ The government authoritarian whiners rationalized their defeat by saying California voters were led astray by monied legalizers like financier George Soros— all the time spending millions of tax dollars and utilizing the half vastness of federal agency resources. “Even with their pseudo-cautious and tunnel vision definitions they delivered a product that contradicted McCaffrey’s prevarications. Medicinal use of cannabis is not a Cheech and Chong show! Cannabis has medicinal utility! “Neither the composition of cannabis nor human physiology has changed since the drug was removed from prescriptive availability in 1938. Only ignorance and harmful political dogmatism prevail.” “Grandfather it in!” Mikuriya called for cannabis to be “grandfathered in” as a federally approved herbal medicine. He noted that in 1954, when the FDA began to require that manufacturers of new drugs explain their mode of action, the makers of aspirin and morphine —drugs widely used for more than half a century— were exempted. Mikuriya proposed that cannabis should be treated similarly because its removal from the formulary had been based on factual misrepresentations to the Congress.

McCaffrey abruptly changed his line to “More research is needed.”
McCaffrey’s threat evoked a strong response from doctors, who joined a suit organized by the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance to enjoin federal retribution. Someone must have explained to 4-Star Gen.McCaffrey that a new strategy was called for —a stall in the name of science—because he abruptly changed his line to “More research is needed.” In January ‘97, McCaffrey announced that his office would allocate $1 million for an 18-month study of the medical potential of marijuana by the Institute of Medicine (a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, whose function is to give the government objective answers to scientific questions). On Jan. 30 an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) derided the U.S. government’s policy as “misguided,” “hypocritical,” “out of step with the public,” and “inhumane.” On the very day the NEJM editorial appeared, Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health, announced a special conference to resolve “the public health dilemma” raised by the passage of Prop 215. “I don’t think anyone wants to settle issues like this by plebiscite,” said Varmus, calling instead for “a way to listen to experts on these topics.” The conference was held Feb. 19-20 and, not surprisingly, the NIH experts called for clinical trials in many areas, maintaining that there was no proof that marijuana was safe and effective medicine: “Evidence that marijuana relieves spasticity produced by multiple sclerosis and partial spinal cord injury is largely anecdotal... There is scant information on the use of marijuana or other cannabinoids for the actual treatment of epilepsy... Nausea and Vomiting Associated With Cancer Chemotherapy: The relative efficacy of cannabinoids versus these newer antiemetics have not been evaluated.... There are no controlled studies of marijuana in the AIDS wasting syndrome, nor have there been any systematic studies of the effects of marijuana on immunological status in HIV-infected patients.” Etc., etc. The investigators named to lead the IOM study were Stanley J. Watson, Jr. a mild-mannered psychiatrist from the University of Michigan and John A. Benson, Jr., a silver-haired, bow-tie-wearing professor emeritus from Oregon Health Sciences University. After holding a public hearing at UC Irvine in December ‘97, the IOM team visited cannabis buyers’ clubs in the Bay Area. At the Oakland CBC they were addressed by Tod Mikuriya, MD, a Berkeley psychiatrist who had devoted his career to studying cannabis as medicine. “The passage of Prop 215 has made clinical research possible once again,” Mikuriya explained. He described the club’s intake form, which defined illnesses according to conventional ICD-9 codes, and his efforts to gather information about individuals’ use patterns and the impact on their illnesses. He emphasized the advantages of vaporization over smoking. After holding two more public hearings, the IOM took a year to review the relevant medical literature and write its report. In this period, McCaffrey and his lieutenants (many of whom were indeed transfers from the Pentagon) lobbed grenades of disinformation at the

The report contained strong warnings about the dangers of smoking
However, the report contained strong warnings about the dangers of smoking and saw “no future in smoked marijuana as medicine.” The IOM team did not recommend using marijuana in the treatment of Parkinson’s or Huntington’s diseases, seizures, migraines, glaucoma, and many other ailments for which patients and doctors contend that it provides relief. President Clinton’s spokesman, Joe Lockhart, summarized the IOM report thus: “What we found out is that there may be some chemical compounds in marijuana that are useful in pain relief or anti-nausea, but that smoking marijuana is a crude delivery system. So I think what this calls for is further research.” Dr. Mikuriya’s Review Tod Mikuriya called the IOM report “an exercise in bureaucratic consensual unreality. The narrow definition of the ‘science base’ has been degraded, contaminated, and deprived of clinical experience for more than 60 years by academic science and medicine. “The IOM conspicuously chooses to exclude or minimize therapeutic efficacy for a variety of chronic illnesses. Acute mental effects of cannabis on recent

TOD MIKURIYA (left) observes as Constance Pechura, Janet Joy, Stanley Watson, and John Benson of the Institute of Medicine learn about clones from Jeff Jones of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club, December 12, 1997.

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