Pubdate: Sun, 14 Feb 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Steven E. Larson
Note: Dr. Steven E. Larson is the president of the California Medical 
Association and a practicing physician.


Medical Group's Endorsement of Legalized Pot Guided by Patient Safety

Regulation of Marijuana Will Allow Better Understanding of Clinical Uses

The California Medical Association has long been at the forefront of 
controversial issues facing our state. We have proposed and helped 
implement forward-looking public policies around HIV/AIDS treatment 
and patient rights, blood donor laws, universal access to health 
care, physician aid-in-dying and vaccination rates.

At the heart of our advocacy lies our fundamental concern for patient 
safety and the overall health care delivery system.

CMA's recent endorsement of the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use 
of Marijuana Act is another example of this organization being guided 
not by political ideology but by patient safety ("Doctors dance with 
a toasty partner"; Forum, Dan Morain, Feb. 7).

For years, the issue of marijuana use has been raised at CMA's annual 
policy conference, spurred by an ambiguous voter-approved "medical 
marijuana" law that created uncertainty for physicians and patients alike.

After more than 12 months of meetings, thousands of pages of 
scientific research and careful deliberation, CMA issued a white 
paper in 2011 calling for legalization, decriminalization and 
regulation of cannabis. The paper, "Cannabis and the Regulatory Void" 
stood ahead of the times by calling for legalization, 
decriminalization and regulation of cannabis.

We explicitly stated then - as we do now - that California's 
physicians do not support the use of marijuana. But we also 
recognize, as does a growing majority of Californians, that the 
status-quo system of prohibition has not effectively protected public health.

As it stands, little is known about the health risks or benefits of 
marijuana because the current classification of the drug doesn't 
allow for clinical monitoring. Regulation of marijuana will allow us 
to better understand potential clinical uses.

We need tight controls and specific monitoring of marijuana so that 
we can keep it out of the hands of children. The current system is a 
virtual free-for-all that leaves local communities overrun with 
unscrupulous operators. California needs the ability to strictly 
regulate and tax this industry to protect our most vulnerable 
citizens and offset community impacts.

We respect the strongly held beliefs on both sides of this debate - 
from the economic, environmental, spiritual, social justice, local 
government and law enforcement perspectives.

But as physicians, our overriding objective - and our only 
consideration - is the health of our patients. It's clear to us that 
the current system undermines public health, fails to protect 
children and leaves state and local government without the funds to 
properly police or educate the public about the risks of marijuana.

We can and must do better.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom