It’s a breakthrough: The first statewide medical association has endorsed marijuana legalization. The California Medical Association (CMA) on Sunday officially recommended the legalization and regulation of cannabis. The decision was based on a white paper which concluded physicians should have access to better research, which is not possible under current policies.
said it is the largest physician group in California — and the first statewide medical group — to take this official position.
|Dr. James T. Hay: “This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds”
”CMA may be the first organization of its kind to take this position, but we won’t be the last,” said James T. Hay, M.D., president-elect of the organization. “This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds.”
“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,” Dr. Hay said.
CMA’s Board of Trustees, a representative body of physician delegations across the state, adopted the policy without objection.
The federal government currently lists cannabis as a Schedule I drug. That most restrictive of all possible classifications has made it almost impossible to research and study marijuana. Part of the policy adopted by CMA emphasizes that it should be rescheduled, in addition to being legalized.
“There simply isn’t the scientific evidence to understand the benefits and risks of medical marijuana,” said 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.”
The CMA Council on Scientific Affairs (which is a much friendlier CSA than the Controlled Substances Act) developed a set of medical cannabis recommendation guidelines for physicians indicating the limited conditions for which the medicinal use of marijuana may be effective.
|Dr. Paul Phinney: “We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients.”
According to the CMA, current literature is inadequate, cannabis dosage is not well standardized and side effects may not be tolerated.
CMA’s newly adopted policy also advocates for the regulation and evaluation of recreational cannabis.
“We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients,” Dr. Phinney said. “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 are currently only allowed to “recommend” medical cannabis, not “prescribe” it, due to its status as a Schedule I controlled substance, by definition supposedly having no medical value. They have been stuck in this uncomfortable position since California’s voters legalized medical marijuana in 1996.
“California has decriminalized marijuana, yet it’s still illegal on a federal level,” Dr. Hay said. “That puts physicians in an incredibly difficult legal position, since we’re the ones ultimately recommending the drug.”
CMA said it advocates for the regulation of medical cannabis to allow for wider clinical research, accountable and quality controlled production of the substance and proper public awareness.
The physician group also recommends the legalization of recreational cannabis so that states may regulate widely used marijuana for purity and safety.
“Our physicians have looked at this issue closely and carefully over a significant period of time,” said Dustin Corcoran, CMA chief executive officer. “After months of research and collaboration, they have chosen to adopt this forward thinking, medically sound policy that will only further their ability to properly treat patients.”