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The Supreme Court ruling last week that determined federal drug laws banning the medicinal use of marijuana trump state ones allowing them, went almost unnoticed by major evangelical policy groups. Focus on the Family said they had no one to respond to the issue, and Family Research Council said they no longer follow drug issues.

However, Concerned Women for America chief counsel Jan LaRue said she was delighted with the decision. "Marijuana has no legitimate medical use," she said. "That has been demonstrated over and over again."

But marijuana does have medicinal qualities, says Dónal O'Mathúna, a lecturer in health-care ethics at Dublin City University and co-author of Alternative Medicine: The Christian Handbook (Zondervan, 2001). "Some people, such as the women who brought the case that the Supreme Court ruled on, report that they receive great benefit from smoking marijuana," says O'Mathúna. "These benefits are primarily in relieving chronic pain, reducing nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite in people with diseases that cause weight loss, and lowering intraocular pressure in glaucoma."

Still, whatever benefits smoking marijuana has are limited, O'Mathúna says, who is a fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association. "To prevent nausea and vomiting, smoking marijuana is about as effective as taking tablets made from a purified drug isolated from the plant," O'Mathúna says. "However, both were much less effective than conventional drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting."

"Some people will feel better, or at least feel different, after smoking marijuana. But there are risks associated with this," O'Mathúna says. His Alternative ...

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June 2005

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