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American Medical Association Calls For Scientific Review Of Marijuana's Prohibitive Status

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Houston, TX: The American Medical Association (AMA) this week called for a scientific review of cannabis' federal status as a Schedule I prohibited substance.

On Tuesday, the AMA's House of Delegates resolved, "[The] 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."

The AMA's resolution amends the organization's previously held position that "marijuana be retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act" of the United States.

Under federal law, all Schedule I classified substances are defined as possessing "no currently accepted use in treatment in the United States." Congress classified marijuana, and all of the plants naturally occurring compounds (known as cannabinoids) as a Schedule I substance upon passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970.

In a 1988 administrative ruling, US Drug Enforcement Administrative Law Judge Francis Young determined, "By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care," and recommended that the drug be rescheduled under federal law. Young's decision was eventually rejected by the DEA in 1990.

Presently the DEA website, "Exposing the Myths of Smoked Medical Marijuana," still states, "The American Medical Association recommends that marijuana remain a Schedule I controlled substance."

In 2008 the American College of Physicians also called for a reclassification of cannabis' Schedule I status. In recent years, numerous prominent health organizations, including the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association, have called for the immediate legalization of marijuana for medical purposes.

In a separate action, the AMA also adopted a report drafted by its Council on Science and Public Health stating, "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."

This conclusion contradicts a recent White House fact-sheet, entitled "Medical Marijuana Reality Check," which alleges, "no sound scientific studies have supported medical use of smoked marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data support the safety or efficacy of smoked marijuana for general medical use."

Commenting on the AMA's policy reversal NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "This week the American Medical Association abandoned its long-standing 'flat-Earth' policy regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis as a therapeutic agent. The AMA's resolution calls on science, not ideological rhetoric, to guide our nation's marijuana policies – a position that NORML has advocated since our inception."

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org.



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