The American Medical Association has taken a giant step by asking the federal government to take marijuana off its most restrictive list of controlled substances while the AMA conducts research into the potential medical uses of cannabis.
By listing pot on “Schedule 1,” the federal government officially labels marijuana a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use, even though California law allows the use of medicinal marijuana under certain circumstances.
“The idea that cannabis has no medical use is absurd on its face, because I know every materia medica (pharmacology text) that has been written has included cannabis as a medicine. The first medical textbook, written by Sir William Osler, said marijuana relieved migraines,” said Dr. David Bearman, a Goleta physician widely known for his advocacy of medical marijuana.
However, the American Academy of Family Physicians argues that marijuana decreases coordination, damages the lungs and increases the risk of infection, in addition to its cardiovascular and cognitive effects.
California voters legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in the state by passing Proposition 215 in 1996, and its acceptance as a medicine — or at least a drug that isn’t as dangerous as advertised — seems to be growing.
Even though medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the Obama administration has told federal narcotics agents not to arrest users and providers of medical marijuana who are abiding by state laws.
And a new initiative to tax and regulate adult use of marijuana in Nevada by licensing retail stores and growers was filed Jan. 6 with the secretary of state’s office, according to the Associated Press. If enough signatures are collected to put it on the ballot, it would be the fourth attempt in the last decade to legalize marijuana in Nevada.
In the Pacific Northwest, five activists filed a ballot initiative this week to legalize all adult marijuana possession in Washington state, saying that state government is wasting money on police, court and jail costs for people who use or produce marijuana.
Criminal penalties for juvenile possession and for providing the drug to juveniles would remain in place, and marijuana would also remain illegal under federal law.
And in Oregon, medical-marijuana advocates are seeking to put on the November ballot a measure to create a system in which state-licensed pot growers would distribute their crops to dispensaries where people could buy the drug to treat their ailments.
Santa Barbara has a city ordinance that allows medical-marijuana dispensaries, though its rules are being revised, but all other cities in the area prohibit such operations.
The Coalition to Promote Drug Free Youth, based in Solvang, has no position on the medical use of marijuana but the volunteer group
is concerned about Santa Ynez Valley youth and about how marijuana is regulated and perceived, according to the coalition’s Mary Conway.
“There needs to be more research on the best way to get medical marijuana into the hands of those who need it, and not on our streets,” she said.
In changing its long-standing policy, the AMA said in November that its goal was to conduct clinical research, devise alternative ways to deliver the drug, and develop cannabis-based medicines, according to Report 6 of the Council of Scientific Affairs within the AMA.
“I have patients with incredible medical problems that express that they have had a miraculous response to the therapeutic use of cannabis,” Bearman said. “The occupations (of those people) are impressive, including people from around the state in law enforcement, district attorneys — not necessarily in this county — to grandmothers and retired military.
“I have found with some of my patients who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, marijuana is very effective in decreasing patients’ quick-to-anger reactions and anxiety. Marijuana causes sleep without nightmares,” he continued.
Both the AMA and Bearman suggest that marijuana can be effective against:
HIV-wasting, which can include involuntary weight loss, chronic diarrhea and weakness;
chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting;
anorexia and other eating disorders, by stimulating the appetite;
glaucoma, by reducing intraocular pressure;
nerve-related movement disorders.
Bearman said he has also used medical marijuana in treating patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia, epilepsy and seizures.
By Raiza Canelon