American Medical Association Reconsidering Marijuana Prohibition


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On Tuesday, the American Medical Associationama announced that while they still consider marijuana a dangerous drug and a public health concern, federal efforts to curb marijuana use are ineffective. The organization recommended continuing the criminalization of marijuana sales but suggested that marijuana use be treated with a public health approach rather than incarceration. The AMA also stated that they would be paying close attention to Colorado and Washington as they begin to implement regulated cultivation and retail marijuana sales.

“We are sorry to hear they wish to stay the course in enforcing this failed policy, but we are pleased to hear they are interested in reviewing the potential benefits of the laws passed in Colorado and Washington to regulate marijuana like alcohol,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Any objective analysis of marijuana will confirm that it is far less harmful than alcohol. If the AMA is truly concerned about public health and safety, it should support a policy in which adults are able to make the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol.”

Most Americans agree that marijuana is safer than alcohol and should be treated as such. The AMA is quite right that incarcerating marijuana users fails to curb use and creates more harm to the individual and society. Part of treating marijuana as a public health issue, however, is removing the marijuana market from criminal control by regulating retail sales for responsible adults.

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New Study Shows Moderate Marijuana Use is Not Associated with Breathing Problems


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A study released by the American Medical Association is getting a whole lot of attention this week, as it rightly should. This study, which shows that people who smoke marijuana exhibit little to no harmful pulmonary effects from their use, pokes a gigantic, gaping hole in one of the most often-employed attacks against marijuana reform.

According to the 20-year study, those who used marijuana occasionally (2-3 times a month) did not show any decrease in lung functioning and, in some cases, actually showed improvements. This is in glaring contrast to cigarette smokers, who displayed significantly less breathing ability at the end of the study. Even some heavy marijuana users showed no decrease in function.

Of course, this is antithetical to what prohibitionists and scaremongers have been claiming about marijuana for decades. One of the most commonly used arguments against marijuana reform is that it is too dangerous to be used as a medicine because of the lung damage caused by smoking (even though many patients prefer vaporizing or eating their medicine). By this logic, making marijuana legal for recreational use is out of the question because of the threat to public health and the associated costs that would be incurred.

The American Medical Association just invalidated that argument. This is the latest in what appears to be a trend of science exposing the lies in the major prohibitionist talking points.

Take teen use, for example. The drug czar has repeatedly tried to blame medical marijuana and reformers on the increase in teen marijuana use, saying that it “sends the wrong message” to young people. By looking at the available data for medical marijuana states, however, MPP was able to show that in most of those states, teen use actually decreased after the implementation of medical marijuana laws. It appears that the message reformers are sending teens is that marijuana is not as glamorous when being used by a cancer patient. That is quite a bit better than the message being sent by the government, which is that teens cannot handle hearing legitimate policy debates and that it is worth lying to them and arresting them to stop others from using marijuana in the future (a tactic we can see has failed by comparing our continuously high arrest rates with the increasing rate of teen and adult use).

Another point, brought up most often by law enforcement, is that if more people are using marijuana, the roads will become more dangerous. They conjure images of stoned drivers and bloodstained pavement and complain about lack of effective tools by which to judge marijuana impairment. This argument was similarly refuted by a recent study that showed traffic fatalities also decreased in states that allowed the medical use of marijuana. Apparently, access to marijuana leads to a drop in alcohol sales, particularly among people who may self-medicate with alcohol for painful conditions. This, combined with the fact that driving while under the influence of marijuana is far safer (yet still potentially dangerous; no one should drive impaired on any substance), leads to a marked decrease in fatal car accidents.

(As a side note, there is a time-tested and proven way of determining impairment caused by any substance or condition. It is called Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and has been in use since there have been cars on the roads. In recent years, this tool has become much more accurate through research and increased training protocols.)

The vast majority of arguments against reform tend to be based on emotion. They have little to do with facts. As more and more research becomes available that disproves the propaganda, hopefully more people will see through the smokescreen of lies and fear. When they do, our nation will make great strides toward enacting rational marijuana policies.

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The White House Lies About AMA Position


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We told readers a few weeks ago that MPP would update them on how the government was responding to the American Medical Association’s new policy on marijuana. To refresh everyone’s memory, the AMA’s new policy is:

Our 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, and alternate delivery methods. 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. (source)

So they don’t go as far as we do, but they are calling for a review of marijuana’s Schedule I status (Schedule I drugs being defined as having no medical value). Now, lets look at how the drug czar is characterizing it. Read the rest of this entry »

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More Misinformation From The DOJ


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Another Justice Department Web site with a cute name is hanging on to misinformation about the American Medical Association’s position on medical marijuana.

From JustThinkTwice.org:

The American Medical Association has rejected pleas to endorse marijuana as medicine, and instead has urged that marijuana remain a prohibited, Schedule I drug, at least until more research is done.

It’s false, and it needs to change. Please join me in sending an e-mail to [email protected] and asking them to update this language.

Also of note is the relative silence from the drug czar’s office. You would think the Office of National Drug Control Policy would have something to say about a new marijuana position from the nation’s largest medical association, right? Wouldn’t that warrant a press release or blog post? It certainly has whenever the AMA said something negative about marijuana.

I guess they’re showing their true colors. The drug czar’s office isn’t about bringing you up-to-date, factual information on drugs and drug policy. Their job is to make sure you don’t question the laws we have in place — even when it puts them at odds with reality. So when the nation’s largest group of doctors breaks from the government talking points, all we hear is silence.

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Why Does the DEA’s Web Site Matter?


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We’ve been updating readers this week about the American Medical Association’s new position on marijuana and the DEA’s response. Last night, the DEA removed a number of AMA-related talking points from its Web site. This may seem like a very small, almost meaningless step, but it’s important to remember how influential the AMA really is.

Striking this language from the DEA’s Web site is a manifestation of something larger and more abstract: the gutting of our opponents’ most effective talking point.

I know everyone reading this blog has sent a letter to their member of Congress and asked for medical marijuana reforms (If you haven’t, you can here), and I’m willing to bet a lot of you have received negative responses. Think back to that response … did it mention the AMA’s opposition? Chances are it did.

When marijuana prohibition was first debated in 1937, one of the first questions was “What is the AMA’s position?” This line of thinking has been pervasive ever since. In every state where MPP has fought for patients, in every congressional office in Washington, and in countless media debates, prohibitionists have used the AMA’s opposition as their flagship talking point. That they can no longer do so is a major development.

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Cops vs. Doctors


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Tonight, after a week of calls by activists, the Drug Enforcement Administration updated its Web site to reflect the American Medical Association’s recent call for a review of marijuana’s Schedule I status.

The update removed several references to the AMA, including: “the American Medical Association recommends that marijuana remain a Schedule I controlled substance,” and “the American Medical Association has rejected pleas to endorse marijuana as medicine.” These changes came just over a week after the AMA released its new position on marijuana.

When it comes to marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, there is now a battle between cops and doctors. The cops say it has no medical value, but the doctors — who one might think are in a position to know — either say it does or, at a minimum, want the government to review its stance. And again, medical marijuana advocates are left wondering why the cops have a say in this debate at all. It will be interesting to see how the DEA does characterize the AMA’s new position. MPP will let you know when they do.

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DEA Ignores AMA’s New Policy


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Last week’s announcement from the American Medical Association — calling for a federal review of marijuana’s legal status — has been well received in the media, reaching the pages of The Washington Post, LA Times, and other publications. One group that hasn’t got the message is the Drug Enforcement Administration. This is no surprise, as the DEA has been ignoring recommendations to research marijuana’s medical benefits for decades.

But this example is particularly egregious. On the DEA Web page “Exposing the Myth of Smoked Medical Marijuana,” the agency writes, “the American Medical Association recommends that marijuana remain a Schedule I controlled substance.” That statement directly contradicts the new policy that the AMA issued last week.

The DEA also has a contact page where you can call them out on this (likely) willful ignorance of recent news: http://www.justice.gov/dea/contactinfo.htm

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Medical Marijuana: The Drug Czar is Wrong (Again)


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In its official response to the AMA’s recent call for a review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug (barring any medical use) under federal law, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy stated that it would defer to “the FDA’s judgment that the raw marijuana plant cannot meet the standards for identity, strength, quality, purity, packaging and labeling required of medicine.”

While we’re not used to factual accuracy from ONDCP, in this case they’re wrong not once, but twice.

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First, there is absolutely no reason that plant medicines can’t be standardized and controlled for purity and potency. Indeed, the Netherlands has been doing just that for years, with medical marijuana distributed in Dutch pharmacies that is “of pharmaceutical quality and complies with the strictest requirements,” according to the Dutch government.

Second, the FDA has never said that a natural plant product can’t be a medicine. Indeed the agency has a lengthy “Guidance for Industry: Botanical Drug Products,” specifically designed to aid developers of plant medicines. The document not only doesn’t rule out plants as medicines, it even states, “In the initial stage of clinical studies of a botanical drug, it is generally not necessary to identify the active constituents or other biological markers or to have a chemical identification and assay for a particular constituent or marker.” Given that the active components of marijuana are already well-known and extensively researched, marijuana is well ahead of where the FDA says plant products need to be to start the process of seeking FDA licensing.

Yes, the FDA did put out a press release in 2006 saying that “smoked marijuana” had not been shown to be a safe and effective medicine. That statement was utterly unscientific, as we pointed out at the time, but it was absolutely not a declaration that the plant could never be a medicine.

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Nation’s Largest Medical Association Calls For Review of Marijuana’s Legal Status


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Big news: The American Medical Association adopted a new policy position today calling for the review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug.

The revised policy “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, and alternate delivery methods.” While it goes on to explain that the AMA is not stating support for state medical marijuana laws, the new policy does fall in line with what is quickly becoming a universal understanding in American medicine: Marijuana has undeniable medical uses and federal law should reflect that reality.

The new policy marks a historic shift from the AMA’s previous position, which recommended that “marijuana be retained in Schedule I,” grouping marijuana with drugs such as heroin, LSD, and PCP that are deemed to have no accepted medical uses.

The AMA’s previous position was often cited by medical marijuana opponents as evidence that the drug’s medical efficacy was in question. This new policy will go a long way to convincing politicians and policy makers that the compassionate use of medical marijuana should not be blocked by outdated marijuana laws.

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