by Daniel Barker

Hypocrisy on the part of the FDA regarding the effectiveness of marijuana as medicine has once again been clearly documented as the agency – after insisting publicly for years that ‘cannabis has no medicinal value’ – is now ready to grant a license to GW Pharmaceuticals to begin marketing a cannabinoid-based drug which will be used to treat multiple sclerosis.

The truth is that the government has known for decades that marijuana does indeed have medicinal value. In fact, it has issued many patents for cannabinoid-based drugs.


Similar cannabis-based formulations created by GW Pharmaceuticals and other drug companies are expected to treat autism, muscular dystrophy, glioma, ovarian and pancreatic cancer and schizophrenia, as well as epileptics. Orders for this product are expected to grow 40 times over in the coming years.

For well over half a century, the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana has been criminalised by the United States government, despite centuries of use worldwide for treating a wide range of ailments. That’s slowly beginning to change, but the fact is that on the federal level marijuana is still officially classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that it is considered as harmful as heroin but less harmful than either cocaine or methamphetamine.

Prohibition for profit

The government continues treating users of marijuana – for both recreational and medicinal purposes – as criminals, while it quietly grants patents to Big Pharma so that synthetic versions of cannabis can be developed for profit.

This practice continues, despite evidence that “raw” cannabis can be just as effective as the synthetic versions – if not more so – without the harmful side effects associated with the latter.

At the moment, Marinol is the only synthetic version of cannabis approved and marketed in the United States. Unlike natural cannabis, it has side effects and has caused at least four known deaths.


Unimed Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Marinol, states on its website (as of Apr. 2004):

MARINOL should be used with caution in patients with cardiac disorders because of occasional hypotension, possible hypertension, syncope, or tachycardia.


Interestingly, while marijuana has never been identified as a primary suspect in mortality, the FDA attributed 4 deaths to Marinol between 1997-2005.

It’s blatantly obvious that at least part of the reason marijuana is still illegal on the federal level is so that Big Pharma can reap the profits from a proven medicinal substance that could be easily – and cheaply – grown and accessed by the public if it weren’t a criminal act to do so.

The sordid history of marijuana prohibition

In fact, one of the main reasons marijuana was made illegal in the first place was to protect the interests of petrochemical companies who wished to replace hemp products with their own synthetic substitutes.


It is said that the motivation for the hemp ban was that new processing technologies were developed that made it a potential competitor with the newly founded synthetic fibre and plastics industries. Hemp’s potential for producing paper also posed a threat to the timber and oil industries. Evidence suggests that commercial interests, having much to lose from hemp competition, helped propagate the reefer madness hysteria and used their influence to lobby for Marijuana Prohibition.

The demonisation and criminalisation of marijuana in the United States has from its very beginnings had more to do with protecting the interests of corporations than protecting the public.

Marijuana in its raw form is essentially harmless and has many uses even beyond its proven medical value, but since there are no profits involved for Big Pharma and the petrochemical industry through its legalisation, its status remains that of a dangerous drug.

It’s high time (no pun intended) to end the senseless Marijuana Prohibition in the United States.