Advocates for the legalization of marijuana got a new, unprecedented member of their ranks: the California Medical Association, which has adopted an official policy that recommends the legalization and regulation of cannabis.
The board of trustees of the CMA, the largest physician group in California, adopted the policy unanimously at its meeting in Sacramento, according to a statement on the CMA website.
California is one of 16 states where medical marijuana is legal, making it possible for doctors to recommend the drug to their patients.
But Dr. James Hay, the president-elect of CMA, said that existing laws put doctors in an uncomfortable position.
“[California] Decriminalized medical use, yet if a physician recommends it to a patient we are violating federal law. Taking a risk,” Hay told ABC News.
At the heart of the group’s issue is regulation. As it stands, according to a statement put out by CMA, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which means that study and research of the drug is limited.
“Think it ought to be regulated, better controlled, no control over what’s in marijuana. If we don’t know what’s in it, we can’t do any kind of scientific evaluation,” Hay said.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the California Police Chiefs Association opposes the CMA’s new policy. But Bill Piper, the director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said that marijuana policy should not be solely in the hands of the government.
“Drug use is a health issue and for too long we have let law enforcement and federal bureaucrats decide policy. CMA is saying let’s treat medical marijuana as a health issue,” Piper told ABC News.
Though the group references studies done by organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Institutes of Health, spokeswoman Molly Weedn said that, to her knowledge, no other medical organizations were consulted in the formation of the policy.
Yet even without the support of other groups, Hay says that to not legalize marijuana would hurt patients more than help them.
“I’m concerned that it has driven underground substance that may have both benefits and harms that we don’t know enough about,” Hay said. “It’s made protecting public health more difficult than it [existing laws] was made to do.”
CMA becomes the first statewide medical association to adopt this official position and Piper said it is one of the best organizations to spearhead the type of action.
“California definitely a trend-setter for this issue,” Piper said. ” It’s a growing trend among voters and medical community that the last people to get it are the politicians in D.C.”