Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Docs on dope

At its 2009 interim meeting, the American Medical Association has adopted a statement urging that marijuana be considered as medicine and that further research be conducted into its medical value. The statement was recommended by the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health, based on a report which endorses the medicinal value of marijuana, but bemoans the combination of federal prohibition and a "patchwork of state-based systems" that have impeded scientific research. While stopping far short of a call for full legalization, the statement represents a major break with the past and undermines federal insistence that marijuana has no value.

The statement (PDF) says:
Our American Medical Association (AMA) urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines. 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.
Parse the English in that statement at your  own peril.

The full report on which the CSAPH statement is based has not been made available online, but an executive summary (ZIP) has been published. That summary concludes:
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.  However, the patchwork of state-based systems that have been established for "medical marijuana" is woefully inadequate in establishing even rudimentary safeguards that normally would be applied to the appropriate clinical use of psychoactive substances.  The future of cannabinoid-based medicine lies in the rapidly evolving field of botanical drug substance development, as well as the design of molecules that target various aspects of the endocannabinoid system.  To the extent that rescheduling marijuana out of Schedule I will benefit this effort, such a move can be supported.
Last year, the American College of Physicians, a large organization representing internal medicine doctors, came out with a similar statement. With the AMA now endorsing the medical potentialof marijuana, the federal government is going to find it increasingly difficult to support its claims that "[t]he DEA and the federal government are not alone in viewing smoked marijuana as having no documented medical value." Increasingly, the federal government really is alone in that claim.

Perhaps recognizing the changing scientific climate, last month, the Obama administration instructed federal prosecutors to de-emphasize the prosecution of people who comply with state medical marijuana laws.

Even if the new AMA position becomes the law of the land, however, it would do little more than ease research into marijuana and, perhaps, move marijuana into the long list of substances available only by prescription. That falls far short of recognizing people's right to ingest whatever they wish, whether for medical reasons or recreational purposes. Fully ending legal restrictions on marijuana (and other drugs) is necessary to end the carnage and civil liberties violations associated with the ever-escalating "war on drugs."



Blogger Johnny said...

This is somewhat of an issue here in UK, tho it's usually called "cannabis" over here.
Drugs adviser quits over David Nutt cannabis row 2009-11-01
Les King resigns from drugs advisory council over government sacking of its head, but reports of second member's resignation unconfirmed.

November 10, 2009 3:23 PM  
Anonymous The infamous oregon lawhobbit said...

Oh good. Prescription only.

November 12, 2009 7:51 AM  
Blogger liberranter said...

The State's prohibition of cannabis is motivated entirely by politics, not science. It is therefore unreasonable (to use the most polite term I can think of) to assume that carefully conducted, objective scientific research will in the foreseeable future alter in any way the Powers-That-Be's attitude toward prohibition or the criminal prosecution of cannabis users.

November 13, 2009 1:39 PM  

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