The California Medical Association has adopted a policy calling for the legalization of marijuana in order to conduct better research on its medicinal uses as well to better regulate its purity and to collect taxes on its sales to finance regulatory, enforcement and education activities.
Calif. docs endorse legalized pot
According to a CMA news release, the policy is based on a white paper (PDF) written by its Legalization and Taxation of Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee, which found that “the public movement toward legalization of medical cannabis has inappropriately placed physicians in the role of gatekeeper for public access” and that effective regulation requires federal action.
“California has decriminalized marijuana, yet it's still illegal on a federal level,” said CMA President Dr. James Hay in the release. “That puts physicians in an incredibly difficult legal position, since we're the ones ultimately recommending the drug.”
It's noted in the paper that, if doctors were to “aid and abet or conspire” for a patient to receive medical marijuana, the feds could revoke their Drug Enforcement Administration registration, which allows them to prescribe controlled substances. Also, if their prescribing of medical marijuana results in a felony conviction, it would result in mandatory exclusion from Medicare and Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.
According to the white paper, the CMA Council on Scientific and Clinical Affairs concluded that components of marijuana may be an effective treatment for anorexia, nausea and, in particular, severe and chronic neuropathic pain resulting from nerve injury, disease or toxicity. But the paper notes that research is inadequate as to dosage and side effects.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance that is the same as heroin and LSD, making clinical research “extremely difficult,” the paper noted. So it recommended that marijuana be moved into a more appropriate schedule or a new schedule be created specifically for marijuana with its own unique parameters. The paper also recommends regulating medicinal and “recreational” marijuana in the same manner as other pharmaceuticals for safety, efficacy and purity.
It stated that the criminalization of marijuana “has proven to be a failed public health policy,” and that it diverts economic resources towards a prison system instead of toward other public purposes such as healthcare, education or transportation; it has a disparate effect on minorities, contributes to the “social destruction of family units” when marijuana users are incarcerated; and its continued demand has led to supporting violent international drug cartels.
Noting that “national advocacy is essential,” the paper also recommended that its findings be referred for national action. CMA spokeswoman Molly Weedn said this infers that the CMA will eventually bring the recommendations before the American Medical Association, though there was no timetable for doing so.
Weedn said the CMA board of trustees adopted the policy “without objection,” and that there was not a recorded vote. The CMA has some 35,000 members and is the second-largest state physician organization behind only the Texas Medical Association, which has 45,000 members.
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