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EXPERTS SAY POT REQUIRES FURTHER STUDY.

Byline: Warren E. Leary The New York Times

Marijuana shows promise in aiding some medical conditions, and its use should be studied further, a panel of experts convened at the National Institutes of Health said Thursday.

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the eight-member panel would draft recommendations on possible marijuana studies within four weeks. They would then be sent to Dr. Harold E. Varmus, the director of the National Institutes of Health, who had called for the two-day conference that ended here Thursday.

The possible medical use of marijuana has been debated for decades, and the panel members are not the first medical authorities to say it may be a useful therapy in certain diseases. But the panel was the first organized by the National Institutes of Health to see potential promise in marijuana therapy.

In referendums last year, voters in California and Arizona approved the medical use of marijuana, but the Clinton administration threatened sanctions against doctors who prescribed it. Varmus said he had convened the conference of experts because of the public health debate that followed the referendums.

The panel said additional studies should be conducted on the medical uses of marijuana. The drug appears to show promise in combating symptoms of several diseases or conditions, based on the limited information available, panel members said, but they added that many questions remained to be answered before scientists could state with confidence that marijuana had a medical role.

Among other things, scientists must determine whether the drug is as good or better than other therapies to treat the same conditions, and whether its possible benefits could be obtained without the intoxicating effects of smoking the drug.

Demonstrators favoring less restricted medical use of marijuana interrupted Leshner and panel members several times, asserting that the conference and National Institutes of Health's expressed interest in the topic was a ``stalling tactic'' to delay freer availability of marijuana for treating symptoms of AIDS, cancer and other diseases.

Leshner said at a news conference afterward that the National Institutes of Health was open to research proposals for studying medical uses of marijuana and would finance them if they passed the standard evaluation process.

Dr. William T. Beaver, a professor of pharmacology at Georgetown University and the chairman of the panel, said there was scant but promising evidence that smoking marijuana might ease the suffering of some patients. Although the panel reached no conclusions about the effectiveness of marijuana, Beaver said, there was a sense among the group that further study would be justified.

``For at least some of the potential indications, we feel that it looks promising enough to recommend that there would be some new controlled studies done,'' Beaver said. ``Which ones, we're going to have to discuss further. The general mood was that for some indications, there is a rationale for looking further into the therapeutic effects of marijuana.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 21, 1997
Words:487
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