The California Medical Association (CMA) has adopted official policy that recommends legalization and regulation of cannabis. The decision was based on a white paper concluding physicians should have access to better research, which is not possible under the current 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 largest physician group in California and 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,” said James T. Hay, M.D., CMA President-Elect. “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, a representative body of physician delegations across the state, adopted the policy without objection.
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,” said 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.”
The CMA Council on Scientific Affairs (CSA) developed a set of medical cannabis recommendation guidelines for physicians indicating the limited conditions for which the medical use of cannabis may be effective. Current literature is inadequate, cannabis dosage is not well standardized and side effects may not be tolerated.
CMA’s newly adopted policy also advocates for the regulation and evaluation of recreational cannabis.
“We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients,” Dr. 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.”
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,” Dr. Hay said. “That puts physicians in an incredibly difficult legal position, since we’re the ones ultimately recommending the drug.”
CMA advocates for the regulation of medical cannabis to allow for wider clinical research, accountable and quality controlled production of the substance and proper public awareness. The physician group also recommends the regulation of recreational cannabis so that states may regulate this more widely used cannabis for purity and safety.
“Our physicians have looked at this issue closely and carefully over a significant period of time,” said Dustin Corcoran, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “After months of research and collaboration, they have chosen to adopt this forward thinking, medically sound policy that will only further their ability to properly treat patients.”
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