Just what the doctor ordered?

Just what the doctor ordered?

On November 10th, the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to consider reclassifying marijuana from its current category as a dangerous drug possessing no medical use. This represents a major shift for the nation’s largest physicians’ organization, and places the group squarely behind support for more research. Since 1997, the AMA, which has 500,000 members, has called for the drug to remain in the most restrictive controlled substance category – Schedule I – which includes LSD and heroin. The AMA delegates at its Houston meeting said the decision is meant to encourage clinical research into and the development of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals and alternative means of delivering it. The change also marks another step in society’s evolving views of marijuana, which the AMA notes was once linked to homicidal mania by the federal government. California voters approved medical marijuana in 1996; marijuana has since moved more mainstream, in large part by the growing acknowledgement of its beneficial effects for the chronically ill. The Obama administration has helped that shift, ordering federal narcotics agents this year not to pursue medical marijuana patients and dispensaries that follow state laws. There is widening support nationally for marijuana decriminalization. Currently, thirteen states allow medical marijuana use; around a dozen others are considering it. The AMA, however, also adopted as part of its new policy a sentence that admonishes: “This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product.” The association also rejected a proposal to issue a more forceful call for marijuana to be rescheduled. Nevertheless, marijuana advocates welcomed the development. The AMA rejected an amendment stating that “smoking is an inherently unsafe delivery method for any therapeutic agent, and therefore smoked marijuana should not be recommended for medical use.” Supporters of the failed amendment argued that smoking is bad as a delivery system because a person combusts something and then inhales it. There was little in the way of reaction from the federal government. The White House drug czar’s office restated government opposition to legalization, saying “the FDA… judge[s] that the raw marijuana plant cannot meet the standards for identity, strength, quality, purity, packaging and labeling required of medicine.” The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists drugs in five schedules (Schedule V being the least-restrictive). Schedule II substances like cocaine and morphine have a high potential for abuse, but also accepted medical uses. Petitions have been filed to reschedule marijuana for years. The first was filed in 1972, and was passed between the DEA and the courts, dying in 1994. A 2002 petition is being considered by the DEA. The AMA notes that it was “virtually alone” in opposing the federal government’s first restrictions on marijuana, adopted in 1937. Cannabis was used for years in various medicinal products, falling into disuse in the early 20th century. In 2008, the American College of Physicians, the nation’s second-largest physician group, called for a “rigorous scientific evaluation of the potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana” and an “evidence-based review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance.” In October, the California Medical Association also passed resolutions declaring marijuana’s criminalization “a failed public health policy.” – Boomer