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The Drug Enforcement Administration rejected once again a proposal to allow the medical use of marijuana by people suffering from cancer, AIDS and other diseases, likening the drug's advocates to "snake oil salesmen."

"The overwhelming consensus of the medical professionals and researchers is that the claims for marijuana are untrue," DEA Administrator Robert Bonner said in an interview Wednesday after issuing his decision. "It is not a safe and effective drug for any illness."The 46-page decision keeps marijuana classified as a Schedule I drug and subject to the most severe restrictions and available only for research.

Advocates of the medical use of marijuana say it combats nausea, vomiting and weight loss common to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and to some AIDS sufferers; reduces eye pressure in the treatment of glaucoma, and helps reduce muscle spasms common to such neurological conditions as multiple sclerosis.