The California Medical Association said the discrepancy between state and federal law created an untenable situation for physicians. The use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal under California law, but the drug is still classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law, a classification reserved for dangerous drugs with no real medicinal value.
“It’s an uncomfortable position for doctors,” said Dr. Donald Lyman, the physician who wrote the new policy. “It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.”
In August, the California Medical Association issued recommendations for physicians on medical marijuana, saying that the drug “may be effective for treatment of nausea, anorexia, pain and other conditions (i.e., spasticity), but that more clinical research is needed regarding specific indications, dosing, and the management of side effects.”
The group is skeptical of marijuana’s medical value, but believes the drug’s criminalization has “proven to be a failed public health policy.” They would like to see marijuana regulated in a manner similar to tobacco and alcohol, and no longer classified as a Schedule I substance.
But the Drug Enforcement Administration denied a nine-year-old petition to initiate proceedings to reschedule marijuana in late June, claiming that, “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.” The medical marijuana advocacy groups Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) have filed a lawsuit against federal agency over the issue.
The use of medical marijuana has been legalized in 16 states and the District of Columbia. But, according to the DEA, marijuana cannot be considered to have medicinal value because there is a lack of scientific studies assessing its safety and efficacy as a medicine.
The American Medical Association, the largest physician’s organization in the U.S., adopted a resolution in 2009 calling on the DEA to reclassify marijuana to facilitate research on marijuana-based medicines.
“Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis,” the AMA’s resolution (PDF) reads.
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