California Medical Assoc. calls for legalizing pot

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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • David

    The scientific evidence is compelling. If more people looked at the facts, it would have been legalized decades ago.

  • Elwood

    Isn’t it nice that nobody smokes that **** to get high anymore?

    It’s all medicine now!

  • John W

    Today’s (10/18) Times editorial about the feds’ crackdown was excellent. Legalization, rejected by the voters last year and in conflict with preemptive federal law, is a separate issue from nonprofit cultivation, distribution and use of weed for medical purposes as approved by the voters. Until federal law is changed, the feds would be negligent if they didn’t do something about the farcical implementation of medical weed in CA and elsewhere.