55 Food & Drug L.J. 601 (2000)
Smoke Screen: America's Drug Policy and Medical Marijuana

handle is hein.journals/foodlj55 and id is 627 raw text is: Smoke Screen: America's Drug Policy and
Medical Marijuana
J. RYAN CONBOY *
I. INTRODUCTION
Marijuana has been used to ease the symptoms of numerous ailments for thou-
sands of years and has been accepted as a means of treatment in the United States since
the mid-19th century. California became the first state to prohibit the drug's possession
or sale in the early 1900s. By virtue of its voters passing Proposition 215, which very
publicly allows for the medical use of marijuana, California has become the focal point of
a controversy pitting the federal government and its 1970 Controlled Substances Act
(CSA)1 against state legislatures and court decisions which have eased the availability
of medical marijuana.
This article first explores the history of marijuana's therapeutic use and examines
the federal government's position supporting its Schedule I classification under the
CSA, while itself providing for a therapeutic program. The article then discusses state
therapeutic use programs and judicial action, followed by an evaluation of the federal
stance-is it politically motivated or based in science? Finally, a recommendation is
made for a program of national distribution with clinical studies that should provide
information to scientifically determine marijuana's medicinal effectiveness.
II. BACKGROUND
A. Leading Up to the CSA
Marijuana, or marihuana (Cannabis sativa), has been used medicinally for over
5,000 years,2 recognized by U.S. physicians for its medicinal value as early as 1840,3 and
included in the United States Pharmacopoeia as a treatment for lack of appetite until
1942.4 Marijuana use in the United States was not regulated by the federal or state
governments until California prohibited its possession or sale in 1915.1 Virtually all of
the states followed California's lead by the time the federal government, in a move
opposed by the American Medical Association (AMA),6 initiated its first attempt to
* Mr. Conboy is an Associate in the law firm of Kreis, Enderle, Callander & Hudgins, P.C.,
Kalamazoo, MI. A previous version of this article won second place in the 2000 H. Thomas Austern
Memorial Writing Award Competition sponsored by FDLI.
Pub. L. No. 91-513, 84 Stat. 1242 (1970) (codified at 21 U.S.C.  801 et seq. (1994)).
2 See J. Wells Dixon, Case Note, Conant v. McCaffrey: Physicians, Marijuana, and the First
Amendment, 70 U. CoLo. L. REV. 975 (1999).
' See Lester Grinspoon & James Bakalar, Marihuana as Medicine, A Plea for Reconsideration,
273 JAMA 1875 (1995) (Between 1840 and 1900, European and American Medical Journals
published more than one hundred articles on the therapeutic use of ... marijuana. It was recommended
as an appetite stimulant, muscle relaxant, analgesic, hypnotic, and anticonvulsant.).
See Dixon, supra note 2, at 976.
See Suzanne D. McGuire, Medical Marijuana: State Law Undermines Federal Marijuana
Policy-Is the Establishment Going to the Pot?, 7 SAN JOAQUIN AGRIc. L. REv. 73 (1997).
6 See American Public Health Association, Resolution on Medical Marijuana 1, 2, Nov. 1995
(last visited Oct. 23, 1999) <www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/medical/apha.htm>.

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