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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chronic City: American Medical Association Reverses Position, Calls For Review of Medical Pot

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge Coming to a dispensary near you - PHOTO BY COASTER 420, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Photo by Coaster 420, Wikimedia Commons
  • Coming to a dispensary near you
For years, one of the main arrows in the quiver of anti-pot zealots in arguing against medical Marijuana (along with the federal pot prohibition, recently blunted by the Obama Administration) has been "But the American Medical Association says pot has no medical value." As of today, that's no longer true.

In a move considered historic by supporters of medical Marijuana, the AMA voted today to reverse its long-held position that Marijuana should continue to be classified under federal law as a Schedule I substance with no medical value. The organization, which is the largest physician-based group in the United States, adopted a report, "Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes," drafted by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH), which affirms the therapeutic benefits of medical Marijuana and calls for further research.

The CSAPH report concludes that "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."

And in a move that could eventually have enormous public policy

repercussions, the physicians' group urges that "the Schedule I status

of Marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical

research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate

delivery methods."

This striking change of

position was, according to the medical Marijuana advocacy group Americans

for Safe Access (ASA), partly put into motion by a resolution adopted

in June 2008 by the Medical Student Section of the AMA in support of

the reclassification of Marijuana's Schedule I status.


last AMA position, adopted in 2001, had maintained a hard-line anti-pot stance,

calling for maintaining Marijuana as a Schedule I substance with no

medical value.

However, the AMA had lobbied against making Marijuana illegal to begin with back in 1937. Dr. William C. Woodward of the AMA offered eloquent written testimony pointing out that "the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction" and that "the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good end whatsoever." 

click to enlarge Dr. Sunil Aggarwal: "Marijuana has both already-demonstrated and future-promising medical utility" - PHOTO BY JOE MABEL
  • Photo by Joe Mabel
  • Dr. Sunil Aggarwal: "Marijuana has both already-demonstrated and future-promising medical utility"

"It's been 72 years since the AMA has officially recognized that

Marijuana has both already-demonstrated and future-promising medical

utility," said Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, the medical student who

spearheaded the passage of the 2008 resolution by the MSS and was also

one of the CSAPH report's expert reviewers.


shift, coming from what has historically been America's most cautious

and conservative major medical organization, is historic," said Aaron

Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy

Project. "Marijuana's Schedule I status is not just scientifically

untenable, given the wealth of recent data showing it to be both safe

and effective for chronic pain and other conditions, but it's been a

major obstacle to needed research."


drugs listed in Schedule I, which are deemed to have no accepted

medical uses and to be unsafe for use even under medical supervision,

include heroin, LSD, and PCP.

Drugs listed in

the less restrictive Schedule II, for which medical use is permitted

with strict controls, include cocaine, morphine, and methamphetamine.

Marinol, a pill containing THC, a component responsible for Marijuana's

"high," is classed in Schedule III; its looser requirements allow

phoned-in prescriptions.

The AMA's about-face on medical Marijuana follows an October announcement

by the Obama Administration discouraging federal attorneys from taking

enforcement actions against medical Marijuana patients and providers in

states where they are operating legally.


February 2008, the second largest physicians' group in the United

States, the American College of Physicians (ACP), adopted a resolution (PDF)

calling for an "evidence-based review of Marijuana's status as a

Schedule I controlled substance to determine whether it should be

reclassified to a different schedule."


two largest physician groups in the U.S. have established medical

Marijuana as a health care issue that must be addressed," said Caren

Woodson, government affairs director at ASA. "Both organizations have

underscored the need for change by placing patients above politics."

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