Physicians Back Law Change for Marijuana

Doctors support rescheduling of marijuana and call on feds to protect medi-pot patients.

The American College Of Physicians says the feds should reconsider the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, placing the drug into a "more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions," and "strongly urges" the government to protect from criminal or civil sanction medi-pot patients who use the drug in accordance with state law.

The nation's largest medical specialty organization and second largest physician's group, the ACP on Feb. 15 released a paper containing five positions regarding the medicinal use of marijuana, including its support for "programs and funding for rigorous scientific evaluation of the potential therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and the publication of such findings." The ACP notes that research supports the use of medi-pot for a number of medical conditions, including glaucoma and as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients, and that clinical trials and current research shows it may have positive effects in treating neurological problems and when used as an analgesic. "Preclinical and clinical research and anecdotal reports suggest numerous potential medical uses for marijuana," ACP wrote. "Unfortunately, the debate surrounding marijuana's legalization for general use has obscured scientific findings."

The biggest hurdle, it would appear, is the Sked I classification of the drug (the most restrictive category) making it difficult to obtain and thus research. The classification also places undue pressure on doctors and patients, the ACP says. "Reclassification of marijuana into a more appropriate schedule would remove the legal stresses that can affect the physician-patient relationship," ACP paper reads. "Although marijuana is a Schedule I drug, 12 states currently have legislation permitting its use for medicinal purposes." Nonetheless, possession is a punishable criminal offense. "This creates additional concerns for researchers, physicians, and patients," writes the ACP. "Physicians must be selective in their wording (when discussing the substance) so as not to appear that they are aiding or abetting patients in obtaining cannabis. In addition to the legalities, the lack of availability and standards on dose and route of delivery present medical concerns. Physicians cannot supervise and have very little control over their patient's behavior."

Still, surprisingly, the ACP says it supports the "current process for obtaining federal research-grade" medi-mari. That process has been roundly criticized by other researchers. This includes Dr. Lyle Craker with the University of Massachusetts whose bid to grow a second crop of research pot has thus far been stalled by the feds, and notably the Drug Enforcement Administration, even though a DEA administrative law judge last year recommended that Kraker's bid to grow be approved.

Currently, the University of Mississippi is the sole supplier of research-grade marijuana, and the college stash, some say, ain't that great. Indeed, the ACP's position here was the only low note in an otherwise positive announcement. "We respectfully disagree with them on this point. The current process is dysfunctional and clearly hampers research," says Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. Licensing Craker to grow, Mirken says, would be a "major step forward." That said, Mirken says that the ACP has made a significant contribution to the ongoing debate over medi-pot: "The headline here is that the 124,000 [ACP doctors] have effectively called the White House drug czar a liar, and said that the whole federal policy on medical marijuana is unscientific and needs to be rethought," he tells Reefer Madness. "This is an earthquake, and the political debate on medical marijuana can never be the same."

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Medical Marijuana, medi-pot, American College of Physicians, Dr. Lyle Craker, Marijuana Policy Project

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