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I am often exasperated by the way both proponents and opponents in the marijuana debate use - and abuse - science in defending their positions Marijuana has been studied in detail there is a scientific literature on how it acts and the possible adverse effects of long-term use The claims that marijuana has important medical applications have been researched also albeit less thoroughly Isnt it about time a scientist spoke up for what he perceives to be the reality as opposed to the myth Marijuana accounts for almost three-quarters of all drug-related arrests in the United States and Britain - more than 500000 a year in the United States alone Although its medical use has been examined by the Institute of Medicine the British Medical Association and the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology the law in both countries treats it as a scheduled narcotic drug with no medical uses and whose possession is a criminal offense In public debate marijuana has been demonized available scientific information is largely ignored or distorted by groups that use science as a propaganda weapon For example in the book Marijuana Myths Marijuana Facts 1 published in 1997 the authors Lynn Zimmer and John P Morgan wrote that Marijuanas therapeutic uses are well documented in the modern scientific literature while in August 1996 General Barry McCaffrey the US drug czar said bluntly There is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that smoked marijuana is useful or needed This is not medicine This is a cruel hoax 2 Is marijuana a dangerous addictive drug with harmful side effects or a soft drug not harmful to health Does it have genuine medical uses that cannot be replaced by other existing medicines Like every drug including aspirin cannabis has adverse effects - but how serious are they Do they justify prohibition of any legal use Science can address these questions at least to a considerable extent
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