California Medical Association Wants to Legalize Marijuana

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana got a new, unprecedented member of their ranks: the California Medical Association.

They adopted an official policy that recommends the legalization and regulation of cannabis.

They are the largest physician group in California.

California recently decriminalized marijuana in the state, making it possible for doctors to recommend the drug to their patients.

Dr. James Hay, the president-elect of CMA, said that existing laws put doctors in an uncomfortable position.

“[California] Decriminalized medical use yet if a physician recommends it to a patient we are violating federal law. Taking a risk,” Hay told ABC News.

At the heart of the group’s issue is regulation. As it stands, according to a statement put out by CMA, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means that study and research of the drug is limited.

“Think it ought to be regulated, better controlled, no control over what’s in marijuana. If we don’t know what’s in it, we can’t do any kind of scientific evaluation,” Hay said.

Though the group references studies done by organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Institute of Health, spokeswoman Molly Wheedn said that, to her knowledge, no other medical organizations were consulted in the formation of the policy.

Yet even without the support of other groups, Hay says that, to not legalize marijuana would hurt patients more than help them.

“I’m concerned that it has driven underground substance that may have both benefits and harms that we don’t know enough about. It’s made protecting public health more difficult than it [existing laws] was made to do,” Hay said.
CMA becomes the first statewide medical association to adopt this official position.

- Article from ABC News.

Statement from the California Medical Association:

CMA urges legalization and regulation of marijuana

The California Medical Association (CMA) has adopted official policy recommending legalization and regulation of cannabis. The decision was based on a CMA white paper that concludes physicians should have access to better research, which is not possible under current drug policy. The paper, available here, is a thoughtful study and response to an important issue, continuing CMA’s tradition of providing guidance on public health.

CMA is the first statewide medical association to take this official position.

“CMA may be the first organization of its kind to take this position, but we won’t be the last. This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds,” says CMA President James T. Hay, M.D. “As physicians, we need to have a better understanding about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis so that we can provide the best care possible to our patients.”

CMA’s Board of Trustees adopted the policy without objection at its October 14 meeting in Anaheim.

The federal government currently lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug. That classification restricts the research and ability to study the substance. Part of the policy adopted by CMA emphasizes that the drug should be rescheduled in addition to being legalized.

“There simply isn’t the scientific evidence to understand the benefits and risks of medical cannabis,” says Paul Phinney, M.D., CMA Board Chair. “We undertook this issue a couple of years ago and the report presented this weekend is clear – in order for the proper studies to be done, we need to advocate for the legalization and regulation.”

“We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients,” says Dr. Phinney. “Currently, medical and recreational cannabis have no mandatory labeling standards of concentration or purity. First, we’ve got to legalize it so that we can properly study and regulate it.”

Physicians, who are currently only allowed to “recommend” medical cannabis, have been stuck in an uncomfortable position, since California decriminalized the drug in 2006.

“California has decriminalized marijuana, yet it’s still illegal on a federal level,” says Dr. Hay. “That puts physicians in an incredibly difficult legal position, since we’re the ones ultimately recommending the drug.”

The regulation of medical cannabis will allow for wider clinical research, accountable and quality controlled production of the substance and proper public awareness. CMA also recommends the regulation of recreational cannabis so that states may regulate this more widely used cannabis for purity and safety.

Contact: Molly Weedn, (415) 209-4217 or mweedn@cmanet.org.

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