Update: Twenty Plus Years After Trebach's Column on Marijuana as Medicine

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Arnold Trebach’s column Marijuana as Medicine was originally published by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in the Fall, 1986 issue of Common Sense for America, and is reprinted in the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform with the permission of both the original publisher and author.

Though over 20 years old Trebach’s column Marijuana as Medicine rings as true today as when it was originally published in 1986. Unfortunately, as Trebach wrote then, it remains true today in 2007 that “the most pitiful victims of our drug wars are the millions of ill Americans denied the full range of possible treatments because our fears about drugs intrude irrationally into the laws controlling what drugs may be used in medicine and how.”

When this column was written in the Fall of 1986 Arnold Trebach was a professor at American University and a member of NORML’s Advisory Board, and was co-counsel in the medical marijuana suit before Administrative Law Judge Francis Young. Trebach was also the author of the then-forthcoming book from Macmillan Press, The Great Drug War, published in 1987.

Along with Bob Randall’s Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics (ACT), NORML (represented by Chief Counsel Kevin Zeese) and Trebach won a favorable ruling from Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, recommending that the DEA reschedule marijuana into Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act and expedite its availability as medicine. The DEA rejected Judge Young’s recommendation the DEA’s action was upheld by the US Court of Appeals in 1994.

Bob Randall and ACT continued their leadership in the medical cannabis issue, including securing legal access for patients to a small number of patients under the same experimental program that provided his own legal cannabis. The federal government soon shut down this program, but these few surviving patients continue to receive medical cannabis from the federal government to this day. Bob Randall died in 2001.. His story is presented in greater detail in the August 2006 issue of the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform.

Since Judge Young’s hearings extensive scientific research has provided significant and substantial new evidence of marijuana’s usefulness and value as medicine. Based on the new scientific record Jon Gettman filed another administrative petition to have marijuana rescheduled in 1995. Adding to the scientific and legal case for marijuana’s federal rescheduling has been the recognition by several states of it’s acceptable medical use by way of new and more effective state legislation providing legal protection for patients who use medical cannabis. The 1995 petition, though, was eventually denied by the DEA in 2001 and Gettman failed to subject this action to judicial review by the US Court of Appeals. Nonetheless new scientific evidence and new state-level laws recognizing medical cannabis use continue to emerge, as do thousands and thousands of new medical patients. The March 2007 issue of the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform contains an article estimating the number of medical patients in the United States based on limited data from national surveys about the extent of marijuana use in the country.

Gettman, along with a newly formed Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, prepared a new rescheduling petition and filed it with the DEA in 2002. This current petition is currently under review by the DEA and the Department of Health and Human Services. Both of these rescheduling petitions, a history of rescheduling efforts, and other background regarding the ongoing battle to seek federal recognition of Marijuana as Medicine are available at Drugscience.org.

Arnold Trebach has remained active in pursuit to an end to the War on Drugs. He went on to found the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF), which later merged with the Lindesmith Center to form what is now the Drug Policy Alliance. After retiring from DPF and American University, in 2006 Trebach recently published a new book: Fatal Distraction, the War on Drugs in the Age of Islamic Terror. An excerpt from Fatal Distraction was published in the August 2006 issue of the Bulletin of Cannabis Reform. Trebach has also recently republished both his landmark book The Heroin Solution, originally published in 1982, along with The Great Drug War, through Unlimited Publishing. All three books, along with other material, can be obtained through his web site The Trebach Report.