The California Medical Association has adopted an official policy recommending that marijuana be legalized and regulated, the first statewide medical association in the nation to take this official position.
The policy is based on a white paper which concluded doctors should have access to better research, which isn’t possible under the current federal ban. The association’s board of trustees, a representative body of physician delegations across the state, adopted the policy without objection.
“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,” CMA President-elect Dr. James Hay said in a news release. “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.”
Marijuana is currently listed on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, a list of drugs that “have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” The CMA policy says it should be rescheduled to a less-restrictive status.
“There simply isn’t the scientific evidence to understand the benefits and risks of medical cannabis,” CMA Board Chair Dr. Paul Phinney said. “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 developed medical cannabis recommendation guidelines for physicians indicating the limited conditions for which the medical use of cannabis may be effective, but current literature is inadequate, dosages aren’t well standardized and side effects may not be tolerated.
But the CMA’s new policy also calls for regulation and evaluation of recreational marijuana use.
“We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients,” 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.”
Doctors in California can merely “recommend” medical marijuana, not prescribe it, due to the conflict between state and federal laws.