The leading national doctors’ group has said cannabis should be classified as a medicine and called for more research into the drug’s potential. The move by the American Medical Association, the largest organization of physicians with nearly 250,000 members, urges the federal government to reschedule marijuana to a level with other medicines and make it available for more cannabinoid drug development research and clinical trials.
The November decision by the AMA marks a change in policy for the organization, which has historically supported the federal government’s contention that there are no currently accepted medical uses for cannabis. Led by ASA Medical and Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Sunil Aggrawal, the AMA’s Medical Student Section pushed the larger organization to change its position based on the thousands of published, peer-reviewed scientific articles exploring the therapeutic applications of cannabis and cannabinoids, including 79 controlled clinical trials.
“It’s been 72 years since the AMA has officially recognized that marijuana has both already-demonstrated and future-promising medical utility,” said Dr. Aggarwal, who was one of the expert reviewers. “The AMA has written an extensive, well-documented, evidence-based report.”
The AMA’s formal recognition of the established science has larger policy implications. The U.S. federal government has long used the AMA’s opposition to medical cannabis as justification for its own position. But the AMA’s report also urges the federal government to reconsider the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Reclassifying it as a medicine would, the AMA notes, help meet “the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods.”
In February 2008, a position similar to the AMA’s was adopted by the American College of Physicians, the country’s second-largest physician group and the largest organization of doctors of internal medicine. That resolution also called on the federal government to review marijuana’s classification as a highly dangerous drug with no medical use.
“The two largest physician groups in the U.S. have established medical marijuana as a health care issue that must be addressed,” said ASA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson. “Both organizations have underscored the need for change by placing patients above politics.”
The AMA joins the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the British Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Association, and dozens of other organizations of health professionals in recognizing established therapeutic uses and calling for more research.