My Letter to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine

July 18, 1998

Dear Drs. Watson and Benson,
You were kind enough to listen to my testimony during your California public meeting. I have been giving a great deal of thought as to what message I would like to leave with you before you begin you deliberations.
I though I might tell you of the DEA raid on my house only a few days after testifying before you, during which my computer and two years worth of work (Iím a professional writer) were seized. I thought, too, of telling you once again how central medical marijuana is to my AIDS treatment. But none of those were quite it. Besides, Iím certain youíve heard many times before about the governmental abuse of medical marijuana patients and the wonders of medical marijuana.
What I want to leave you with is this: please follow to the letter your directive to leave politics out of your report. Were it not for politics, medical marijuana would be as legal as medicinal alcohol, and widely used for a similar effect: a little relaxation and little pleasure to soothe while nature does the healing.
Were it not for the governmentís ignoring of the AMAís advice in passing the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 and its subsequent removal from the Pharmacopoeia in 1941, medical marijuana ("cannabis") would have been grandfathered into the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, just as aspirin and several hundred others were.
In other words, were it not for a political lie (Congress, before it voted on the Marijuana Tax Act, was told that the AMA had approved it the when, in fact, the AMA vehemently opposed it), medical marijuana would now be in general use in thousands of over-the-counter medicines, just as medicinal alcohol is today.
This, I think, is the honest, scientific, non-political view of medical marijuana: it should have the same restrictions of medicinal alcohol, and no more. Any more restrictive classification, I believe, would be allowing politics to enter into the decision; a concern, perhaps, of appearing "too radical," when, in fact, the medical truth is radically different from the politically based repression.
Would Galileo have settled for, "The Sun goes around the Earth some of the time"?
If you would like documents supporting any of my statements in this letter, I will be happy to provide them. I assume you have already studied the original politicization and denomination of medical marijuana in the 1930s, so I will not burden you by attaching the relevant documents, although they are readily available.
Thank you for your kind attention.
I leave you with the words of Galileo, for I see the task you face as scientists to be every bit as monumental as was his: "In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." (1632)

If I believed in luck, I would say that communicating with the Institute of Medicine is, for me, an unlucky activity. As mentioned in the July 18, 1998, letter, shortly after appearing to give my statement in December 1997, the DEA raided my home. Then, only five days after sending off the July 18, 1998, letter, I was arrested by the DEA. I am not so superstitious as to never write the IOM again, but my hand may tremble a bit as I lick the stamp.