Scotland: Medical Association Backs Legalizing Marijuana

Thursday, 24 June 1999

Leading doctors from the British Medical Association's (BMA) Scottish committee for public health are pushing to remove criminal penalties for the recreational use of marijuana.

"We want to encourage public debate on this issue and examine the evidence, rather than [have] people leaping to prejudice," committee chairman Dr. George Venters said. "I think more than half the population would support legalization if you laid out the evidence."

The doctors' group argues that separating marijuana from the illegal drug market would effectively dissuade users from graduating to harder drugs. "Marijuana is in the same boat as heroin and cocaine [under the law] and that's entirely anomalous," Venters said. "Cannabis has been around a long time. It's not addictive; it's not in the same league as these other drugs."

Venter's said that improperly categorizing marijuana with hard drugs like heroin and cocaine costs anti-drug proponents credibility with adolescents. "If we want to be listened to about drugs, we cannot talk a lot of nonsense. Young people know exactly what is going on."

The committee will bring their legalization motion before the BMA at next month's annual conference. The BMA backs the use of cannabinoids, compounds in marijuana, as medicine, but does not endorse relaxing penalties for the drug's recreational use.

At least two international medical societies, the Canadian Medical Association and the Australian Medical Association, oppose criminal penalties for marijuana possession. The American Medical Association takes no current position on marijuana decriminalization, but supports clinical trials to better determine its medicinal qualities.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.