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.
Read the full CMA White Paper here.
Earlier this year, CMA's Council on Scientific and Clinical Affairs issued recommendations on the medicinal use of cannabis to help ensure that the substance is being used for appropriate purposes. Those guidelines are available here.
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