Sunday, February 17, 2008

Doctors Group Calls for End of Pot Ban

Atlanta Journal Constitution


Sacramento, Calif. -- A large and respected association of physicians
is calling on the federal government to ease its strict ban on
marijuana as medicine and hasten research into the drug's therapeutic uses.

The American College of Physicians, a 124,000-member group that is
the nation's largest for doctors of internal medicine, contends that
the long and rancorous debate over marijuana legalization has
obscured good science that has demonstrated the benefits and
medicinal promise of cannabis.

In a 13-page position paper approved by the college's governing board
of regents and posted Thursday on the group's Web site, the ACP calls
on the government to drop marijuana from Schedule I, a classification
it shares with illegal drugs such as heroin and LSD that are
considered to have no medicinal value and a high likelihood of abuse.

The declaration could put new pressure on lawmakers and government
regulators, who for decades have rejected attempts to reclassify
marijuana. Bush administration officials have aggressively rebuffed
all attempts in Congress, the courts and among law enforcement
organizations to legitimize medical marijuana.

Clinical researchers say the federal government has resisted full
study of the potential medical benefits of cannabis, instead pouring
money into looking at its negative effects. A dozen states have
legalized medical marijuana, but the federal prohibition has led to
an enforcement tug-of-war.

The ACP position paper calls for protection of both doctors and
patients from criminal and civil penalties in states that have
adopted medical-marijuana laws.

Medical-marijuana advocates embraced the position paper as a
watershed event that could help turn the battle in their favor.

Bruce Mirken, a San Francisco spokesman for the Marijuana Policy
Project, said the ACP position is "an earthquake that's going to
rattle the whole medical marijuana debate."

The ACP, he said, "pulverized the government's two favorite myths
about medical marijuana -- that it's not supported by the medical
community and that science hasn't shown marijuana to have medical value."

But officials at the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy said calls for legalizing medical marijuana are misguided.

"What this would do is drag us back to 14th-century medicine," said
Bertha Madras, the drug czar's deputy director for demand reduction.
"It's so arcane."

She said guidance on marijuana as medicine ought to come from the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is unlikely ever to approve
leafy cannabis as a prescription drug. Two oral derivatives of
marijuana's psychoactive ingredient, THC, have won FDA approval, and
the agency is also in the early stages of considering a marijuana spray.

An FDA spokeswoman referred reporters to a 2006 news advisory noting
that the agency has never approved of smoked marijuana as a medical treatment.

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