Drug Policy

California's Largest Medical Association Says Marijuana Prohibition Is Bad Public Health Policy


From the L.A. Times

Trustees of the California Medical Assn., which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, adopted the position at their annual meeting in Anaheim late Friday. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge legalization of the drug, according to a group spokeswoman, who said the larger membership was notified Saturday.

Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group's new policy, attributed the shift to growing frustration over California's medical marijuana law, which permits cannabis use with a doctor's recommendation. That, he said, has created an untenable situation for physicians: deciding whether to give patients a substance that is illegal under federal law.

"It's an uncomfortable position for doctors," he said. "It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for."

The CMA's new stance appears to have as much to do with politics as science. The group has rejected one of the main arguments of medical marijuana advocates, declaring that the substance has few proven health benefits and comparing it to a "folk remedy."

The group acknowledges some health risk associated with marijuana use and proposes that it be regulated along the lines of alcohol and tobacco. But it says the consequences of criminalization outweigh the hazards.

Lyman says current laws have "proven to be a failed public health policy." He cited increased prison costs, the effect on families when marijuana users are imprisoned and racial inequalities in drug-sentencing cases.

Read the whole thing, including typically obtuse responses from the nanny- and police-staters (Georgetown's Dr. Robert DuPont: "I think it's going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern"; California Police Chiefs Assocation: "Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana—how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence—it's just an unbelievably irresponsible position.") And, if you can make time and spare a few bucks, read The New Yorker's new feature on decriminalization in Portugal (subscription required). The story features myriad testimonials from Portugese doctors and law enforcement officials extolling the public health benefits of treating drug users like human beings. My favorite quote comes from Elisabete Moutinho, a psychologist with Portugal's Ministry of Health, in defense of clean needle exchange programs:

"I know that it is not easy for everyone to accept, but they don't get AIDS from a dirty needle, or hepatitis. They are not beaten by gangs or arrested or put in jail. There is no police corruption, because there is nothing to get rich from. It is a program that reduces harm, and I don't see a better approach." 

Politically, marijuana and heroin are apples and oranges. Yet there's a lot of overlap between the CMA's argument against pot prohibition and Moutinho's defense of needle exchanges; mainly the idea that destroying users' families and destabilizing poor communities is a more serious public health crisis than allowing adults safe access to drugs they already use.  

NEXT: Sunday, Stupid Sunday

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  1. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge legalization of the drug,

    I suppose they can expect a full audit by the IRS.

    1. If Californian politicians are willing to take away business licenses from stores selling candy with pro-marijuana labeling, why wouldn’t they be willing to take away medical licenses for this?

      1. ‘Cause if the did Obamacare would collapse for want of supply?

  2. Not so fast you cock-sucking CMA assholes. My boss and I haven’t ended the WOD yet. The California Prison Guards Union is against you.

  3. The group…proposes that it be regulated


  4. California Police Chiefs Assocation: “Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana?how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence?it’s just an unbelievably irresponsible position.

    So I assume that the CPCA supports the prohibition of alcohol too?

    Also, compared to the effects that a SWAT team bullet has on a young brain, I will take marijuana any day.

  5. It is an open question whether cannabis any illegal substance/act is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.


  6. I have a reluctance to see them advocate on the basis of policy arguments, rather than discuss health effects, even when I agree with them. It reminds me too much of, say, similar medical associations advocating against guns, or against fatty foods, or whatever.

  7. The fact that they can state “It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not” is proof these physicians are interested in a CYA position from the Feds, and not patient welfare

  8. Bad public health policy? There is no good public health policy.

    1. That’s the spirit!

  9. “An open question whether cannabis is useful or not” –Only if you’re an ignorant fool. From Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy to Granny Storm Crow, there is more peer-reviewed evidence available proving Cannabis’ efficacy than any other substance on the planet.

    Mister Lovell can stew in his cognitive dissonance. If he gets sick, tell him to call a nark.

    1. Nothing is as well peer-reviewded as the scientific research by Granny Storm Crow. I salute your “appeal to authority”.

  10. (Georgetown’s Dr. Robert DuPont: “I think it’s going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern”

    One wonders if more legal cannabis use means less legal alcohol use. I see it as a sliding scale. Those who use illegally will use no matter what. Those who don’t might start, but likely at the expense of some other drug they are using, like alcohol/tobocco or whatever prescription they have.

    1. “(Georgetown’s Dr. Robert DuPont: “I think it’s going to lead to more use, and that, to me, is a public health concern”

      One wonders if more legal cannabis use means less legal alcohol use.”

      Others wonder why DuPont’s opinion is worth reading. And why use of one drug or another is a matter of interest other than the person doing so.

      1. It isn’t. But when we’re discussing public policy speak, it’s a good idea to try to present a case where legalizing marijuana may reduce alcohol consumption. Then they can’t use the “more peepul doin drugs” argument.

    2. The more I puff, the less I drink.

  11. As I continue to watch the PBS miniseries on Prohibition, the parallels are unmistakable.

    The flouting of the law.

    The idea that “if this law is stupid, why follow the ohters?”

    The carnage on the Mexican border that makes Chicago look like Toys R Us.

    I work with people who see Prohibition as a bad thing and fail to see the connection to other politically incorrect chemicals.

    Morality knows no reason.

    1. Gang Obama can’t just let states decide their own MJ policy, because that would lead to acknowledging state autonomy, which is a Tenth Amendment issue.

      Gay marriage? Oh, they’re all for that! But let a state decide to not throw people in prison for smoking pot? The horror! Suddenly, the Gang goes all right-wingy over shit like that!


  12. “Morality knows no reason.”

    It can. Depends on whether it’s based on facts or emotion.

    1. I’m not touching that link with a 10 foot pole.

      1. FCS, Hitler did enough to the Poles; leave them out of this

        1. Your phone! How do you…isn’t that…banned!…but…why do you…rectal!…and…sand in your vagina! HAHAHAHAHA!

          1. Poor epi, he thinks he’s loved 🙁

        2. “Hitler did enough to the Poles;”
          Actually, that got a laugh.

          1. Sevo, we bet you were the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass and not even have the goddamn common courtesy to give him a reach-around.
            Give us back the decoder ring

    2. Despite being well-rewarded, the gong farmer’s job was considered by historians on The Worst Jobs in History television series to be one of the worst of the Tudor period. Those employed at Hampton Court during the time of Queen Elizabeth I, for instance, were paid sixpence a day, a good living for the period, but the working life of a gong farmer was “spent up to his knees, waist, even neck in human ordure”. They were only allowed to work between 9 pm and 5 am, were permitted to live only in certain areas, and because of the noxious fumes produced by human excrement were sometimes overcome by asphyxiation. Gong farmers usually employed a couple of young boys to lift the full buckets of ordure out of the pit and to work in confined spaces.

      After being dug out the solid waste was removed in large barrels or pipes, which were loaded onto a horse-drawn cart. As privies spread to the residences of ordinary citizens they were often built in backyards with rear access or alleyways, to avoid the need to carry barrels of waste through the house to the street. Much of what is known about London’s privies during the 17 and 18th centuries comes from witness statements describing what had been discovered amongst the human excrement, such as the corpses of unwanted infants.

      All of the effluent had to be removed from the town or city where it was collected, either by spreading it on common land or by transporting it to laystalls, which were usually on the edges of town. In the case of London much of it was taken to dumps on the banks of the River Thames such as the appropriately named Dung Wharf, later the site of the Mermaid Theatre, from where it was transported by barge to be used as fertiliser on fields or market gardens. Some of the dumps became quite massive; the ironically named Mount Pleasant in present-day Clerkenwell, London, occupied an area of 7.5 acres (3.0 ha) by 1780.

      The penalties for not disposing of waste in the approved manner could be harsh. One London gong farmer who poured effluent down a drain was put in one of his own pipes, which was filled up to his neck with filth before being publicly displayed in Golden Lane with a sign detailing his crime.

  13. How effective has the CMA been in getting its pronouncements enacted into law?

  14. Hey, Democrats… how’s that Obama promise to not be a medical-marijuana dickface workin’ out for ya?

      1. It’s a comedic tragedy, unfortunately.

        1. More tragedy than comedy, unfortunately.

          Also, for those who still fight to have marijuana made illegal, despite everything that’s known about it’s safety: please go to hell. For Obama, who has smoked it, is well aware of it’s safety, and still asks or allows his minions to destroy others’ lives over marijuana, please go to hell.

    1. Hey Mr, maybe it’s time for you to stop being an ignorant hypocrite and start being a TRUE conservative!

      Pragmatic libertarians (minimal-statists) and “true” Conservatives agree that many, if not most, of society’s problems are caused by government usurping choices that could better be made by individuals and that government is just about the worst way of doing almost anything. Where libertarianism normally parts company with “fake” conservatism is over moral issues. But a true conservative would have no problem with agreeing, that what people do with their own bodies, and especially in the privacy of their own home, should be supremely their business, and that anything else would entail ignoring the basic tenet of limited government.

      Fake-Conservatism on the other hand has much in common with socialism; Both Leftists and Fake-Conservatives appear to harbor the belief that nature does not exist and that any human can be anything he wants to be, or can for the “greater good”, be “re-educated” into being. Leftists therefore think little boys can be conditioned into preferring dolls over toy soldiers, and similarly Fake-conservatives believe that adults can be coerced into choosing alcohol over marijuana. A true conservative, just like a pragmatic libertarian, would immediately reject both ideas as nonsense.

      If you support prohibition then you are NOT a conservative.
      Conservative principles, quite clearly, ARE:

      1) Limited, locally controlled government.
      2) Individual liberty coupled with personal responsibility.
      3) Free enterprise.
      4) A strong national defense.
      5) Fiscal responsibility.

      Prohibition is actually an authoritarian War on the economy, the Constitution and all civic institutions of our great nation.

      It’s all about the market and cost/benefit analysis. Whether any particular drug is good, bad, or otherwise is irrelevant! As long as there is demand for any mind altering substance, there will be supply; the end! The only affect prohibiting it has is to drive the price up, increase the costs and profits, and where there is illegal profit to be made criminals and terrorists thrive.

      The cost of criminalizing citizens who are using substances no more harmful than similar things that are perfectly legal like alcohol and tobacco, is not only hypocritical and futile, but also simply not worth the incredible damage it does.

      Afghani farmers produce approx. 93% of the world’s opium which is then, mostly, refined into street heroin then smuggled throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

      Both the Taliban and the terrorists of al Qaeda derive their main income from the prohibition-inflated value of this very easily grown crop, which means that Prohibition is the “Goose that laid the golden egg” and the lifeblood of terrorists as well as drug cartels. Only those opposed, or willing to ignore this fact, want things the way they are.

      1. Which “Mr” are you speaking to?

        1. Mr. Strawman, obviously. Seeing as how he’s a well-known hypocrite.

  15. It’s the only responsible course of action! It’s so bad for kids! It’s bad for adults! Look at all the deaths from people falling asleep with tobacco!

    1. Debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Are drugs like Heroin, Meth or Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter, because if we prohibit them then we sure as hell know that it makes a bad situation far worse. If someone wants to attempt to enhance or destroy their lives with particular medicines or poisons, that should be their business, not anybody else’s. Their lives aren’t ours to direct. And, anyway, who wants to give criminals a huge un-taxed, endless revenue stream?

      Why on earth does anyone think it’s acceptable to want to control certain behaviors, such as the bedroom habits or choice of poison of fully grown adults? Isn’t it high time we evolved enough to get past this crap? Surely we need to accept, that the only way to truly be free, is that you agree, in return, to allow other people to be free, even if it offends your personal sensibilities. What’s more; if it’s not directly hurting you and you forbid it, then you can be sure that it will create unforeseen circumstances which WILL have an adverse affect on YOUR wellbeing! — Actually, a large proportion of those arising circumstances may not come as such a surprise to those of us who are capable of paying due attention to historical precedent.

      If you are a Prohibitionist then you owe us answers to the following questions:

      #1. Why do you rejoice at the fact that we have all been stripped of our 4th amendment rights and are now totally subordinate to a corporatized, despotic government with a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force whose often deadly intrusions into our homes and lives are condoned by an equally corrupt and spineless judiciary?

      #2. Why do you wish to continue to spend $50 billion a year to prosecute and cage your fellow citizens for choosing drugs which are not more dangerous than those of which you yourself use and approve of such as alcohol and tobacco?

      #3. Do you honestly expect the rest of us to look on passively while you waste another trillion dollars on this ruinously expensive garbage policy?

      #4. Why are your waging war on your own family, friends and neighbors?

      #5. Why are you so complacent with the fact that our once ‘free & proud’ nation now has the largest percentage of it’s citizenry incarcerated than any other on the entire planet?

      #6. Why are you helping to fuel a budget crisis to the point of closing hospitals, schools and libraries?

      #7. Why do you rejoice at wasting precious resources on prohibition related undercover work while rapists and murderers walk free, while additionally, many cases involving murder and rape do not even get taken to trial because law enforcement priorities are subverted by your beloved failed and dangerous policy?

      #8. Why are you such a supporter of the ‘prison industrial complex’ to the extent of endangering our own children?

      #9. Will you graciously applaud, when due to your own incipient and authoritarian approach, even your own child is caged and raped?

      * It is estimated that there are over 300,000 instances of prison rape a year.?* 196,000 are estimated to happen to men in prison.?* 123,000 are estimated to happen to men in county jail.?* 40,000 are estimated to be committed against boys in either adult prisons or while in juvenile facilities or lock ups.?* 5000 women are estimated to be raped in prison.

      #10. And will you also applaud when your own child, due to an unnecessary and counter productive felony conviction, can no longer find employment?

      1. Nobody here supports the War on Drugs, dude. I don’t know who you’re lecturing.

  16. The story features myriad testimonials from Portugese doctors and law enforcement officials extolling the public health benefits of treating drug users like human beings.

    Fuck Portugal. They make wonderful sausage* but their authoritarian public health approach to drugs is in no way libertarian.

    *(the chourico more than the linguica)

  17. Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana?how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence?it’s just an unbelievably irresponsible position.

    It’s fucking amazing to me that the police seem to think that they have better understanding of the scientific evidence of marijuana’s physiological effects than FUCKING DOCTORS DO.

    1. We’re really not that much better off, policy-wise, than we were when that fuckstain Harry Anslinger was in charge of marijuana policy…

  18. Ban Ki-moon

    This guy’s folks were’t smoking anything when they named him were they?

  19. Who would have thunk it? A bunch of doctors have finally decided to call for some ‘effective harm reduction’. I wonder when they’ll decide it’s time they fully recognized ‘sound medical science’?


    Federal researchers implanted several types of cancer, including leukemia and lung cancers, in mice, then treated them with cannabinoids (unique, active components found in marijuana). THC and other cannabinoids shrank tumors and increased the mice’s lifespans. Munson, AE et al. Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Sept. 1975. p. 597-602.


    In a 1994 study the government tried to suppress, federal researchers gave mice and rats massive doses of THC, looking for cancers or other signs of toxicity. The rodents given THC lived longer and had fewer cancers, “in a dose-dependent manner” (i.e. the more THC they got, the fewer tumors). NTP Technical Report On The Toxicology And Carcinogenesis Studies Of 1-Trans- Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, CAS No. 1972-08-3, In F344/N Rats And B6C3F Mice, Gavage Studies. See also, “Medical Marijuana: Unpublished Federal Study Found THC-Treated Rats Lived Longer, Had Less Cancer,” AIDS Treatment News no. 263, Jan. 17, 1997.


    Researchers at the Kaiser-Permanente HMO, funded by NIDA, followed 65,000 patients for nearly a decade, comparing cancer rates among non-smokers, tobacco smokers, and marijuana smokers. Tobacco smokers had massively higher rates of lung cancer and other cancers. Marijuana smokers who didn’t also use tobacco had no increase in risk of tobacco-related cancers or of cancer risk overall. In fact their rates of lung and most other cancers were slightly lower than non-smokers, though the difference did not reach statistical significance. Sidney, S. et al. Marijuana Use and Cancer Incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control. Vol. 8. Sept. 1997, p. 722-728.


    Donald Tashkin, a UCLA researcher whose work is funded by NIDA, did a case-control study comparing 1,200 patients with lung, head and neck cancers to a matched group with no cancer. Even the heaviest marijuana smokers had no increased risk of cancer, and had somewhat lower cancer risk than non-smokers (tobacco smokers had a 20-fold increased Lung Cancer risk). Tashkin D. Marijuana Use and Lung Cancer: Results of a Case-Control Study. American Thoracic Society International Conference. May 23, 2006.


    In response to passage of California’s medical marijuana law, the White House had the Institute of Medicine (IOM) review the data on marijuana’s medical benefits and risks. The IOM concluded, “Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana.” The report also added, “we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting.” The government’s refusal to acknowledge this finding caused co-author John A. Benson to tell the New York Times that the government “loves to ignore our report ? they would rather it never happened.” Joy, JE, Watson, SJ, and Benson, JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press. 1999. p. 159. See also, Harris, G. FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. New York Times. Apr. 21, 2006

    1. No need for CAPS, dude… you don’t need to convince people here that The War on Some Drugs is a bad thing.

  20. If you don’t like marijuana, then don’t use it.

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