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Arizona takes step to finally outlaw laetrile

Rep. John Kavanagh (File Photo)

When Kavanagh was debating some of the finer points of medical marijuana law, it came to his attention that the state still allows the sale and distribution of laetrile, a drug purported to cure cancer that was banned by the Food and Drug Administration decades ago.

His HB2521 removes the exemption from the prohibition on manufacturing or selling laetrile, and removes the statute regulating the distribution and sale of laetrile.

The drug became a popular, if false, cure-all in the 1800s. Conspiracy theorists politicized it in the 1960s and 1970s, before the FDA banned the substance, Kavanagh said.

Eventually the politics of the issue became so hot that lawmakers in several states, including Arizona, allowed the sale of laetrile.

“The advocates convinced a number of legislators in a number of states to disregard the FDA and the scientific testing and rules used to keep their drugs from victimizing people and we legalized it in the state of Arizona. Since then it is totally discredited. Nobody even suggests it cures cancer,” he said.

Kavanagh said the bill would remove a part of state statutes that represent an embarrassing part of state history when lawmakers cast aside science in favor of politicized ideas that hurt residents.

The bill passed through the House Committee of the Whole with no debate, and will head to a full House vote.

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