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DEA Chief Denounces TV’s ‘Murphy Brown’, Saying Characters Use of Medicinal Marijuana To

November 6, 1997

DEA Chief Denounces TV’s `Murphy Brown’, Saying Characters Use of Medicinal Marijuana To Relieve Effects of Chemotherapy Is Poor Example for ChildrenBy MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Another top government official is denouncing TV’s Murphy Brown as a poor example for children. The drug enforcement chief is upset that CBS’ fictional reporter turns to marijuana to relieve nausea caused by chemotherapy.

It’s hard to recall another fictional character taken so seriously by government executives. Only five years ago, then-Vice President Dan Quayle touched off a national debate when he accused the popular situation comedy of undermining families with Brown’s decision to have a child out of wedlock.

In a statement issued hours before Wednesday’s episode, Drug Enforcement Administrator Thomas Constantine said CBS and the show’s creators were ``doing a great disservice″ by ``trivializing drug abuse.″

``As a law enforcement official with 38 years of experience and, even more importantly, a father and grandfather,″ Constantine said, ``I am extremely troubled that at a time when teen-age drug abuse is doubling ... a television show of the caliber of Murphy Brown would portray marijuana as medicine. It is not medicine. ... More dangerously, the show sends the message to our children that marijuana must be OK because it’s medicine.″

Wednesday’s plot: Murphy Brown, played by actress Candice Bergen, smokes a marijuana cigarette to quell nausea induced by the chemotherapy used to treat her breast cancer. The marijuana is purchased by another character, her uptight anchorman Jim Dial, who resorts to this illegality out of concern over Brown’s inability to get relief from legal drugs and therapies.

CBS Vice President Chris Enders said the network stands behind the episode ``which deals with the medicinal use of marijuana in a compelling, poignant and sometimes humorous manner.″

Enders called it part of the show’s ``rich history of blending comedy with controversial political and social issues and doing it responsibly.″

The episode got a more restrictive rating than usual _ TV-14, which means parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring the program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended, Enders noted.

``I think we have got to recognize and be very concerned about the dangers of marijuana,″ Attorney General Janet Reno told her weekly news conference today, but she declined to comment on the show because she did not see it. Noting that the National Institute of Health is studying the medical use of marijuana now, Reno said, ``That’s where the sensitive critical issues of the medical use of marijuana should be addressed in the first place.″

Constantine said that smoked marijuana has ``more harmful chemicals than cigarettes and damages the immune system.″

The DEA chief added that medical experts, the American Medical Association, the American Glaucoma Society and the American Cancer Society have rejected marijuana as medicine. It active ingredient, THC, is available by prescription, and work is under way on other nausea treatments, he said.

``I’m sorry if we’ve upset Mr. Constantine. Obviously he hasn’t seen the show,″ said Marc Flanagan, executive producer of ``Murphy Brown,″ ``We had no political agenda. We are not advocating the medical use of marijuana.″

Physicians and cancer specialists told the show’s writers that some patients do relieve nausea with marijuana when other drugs don’t work, Flanagan said, so they wrote marijuana into the script only after showing Brown unsuccessfully trying all other known treatments.

``Marijuana was secondary to the story about Jim Dial and Murphy Brown. He comes to her aid; he risks something,″ Flanagan said. ``People will go to any lengths to come to the aid of loved ones. That’s what the story is about.″

Flanagan said he hoped that if Constantine watched the episode he would see ``our intention was to reflect what’s happening, not to advocate a course of action.″ He added, ``I think we are doing a public service by ... increasing awareness of breast cancer.″

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