In a reversal of its long-held position that marijuana should remain a DEA Schedule 1 controlled substance (meaning it has no medical value), the American Medical Association has adopted a report drafted by its Council on Science and Public Health entitled, “Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes.”
The report's conclusion states, “Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.” In addition to recognizing its potential pain-relieving benefits, the report recommends that "the Schedule I status of marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods."
The AMA's change of position is an important step toward one day hopefully seeing marijuana rescheduled to perhaps a Schedule II drug, which would open the door for much more research. This follows a similar resolution adopted by the American College of Physicians nearly two years ago, which called for an evidence-based review of marijuana's controlled substance status to determine whether it should be reclassified in order to permit medicinal use.
It's interesting to note that, despite a great deal of public interest in studying marijuana for medicinal uses, there have been fewer than 20 randomized controlled trials of smoked marijuana in the past 35 years – and all of those trials put together only involved a total of about 300 patients. (Note these figures apply only to smoked marijuana trials and did not include trials of the chemical THC and similar synthetic drugs.)
Even with the support of the two largest physician's groups in the U.S., the path to getting marijuana rescheduled still faces some roadblocks. The FDA is concerned about how their standards of uniform potency, quality and purity would be met. A number of people still view marijuana as a gateway drug and are fearful that making it available for medicinal use would increase the drug abuse problem. Then there are the big pharmaceutical companies. I've always thought they were opposed to the medicinal use of marijuana because not only can they not control it, but it could potentially cause a significant reduction in the need for many of the pain medications they manufacture. However, many of them are actively pursuing patents on various components and derivatives of marijuana, so they may not be lobbying against it as strongly as I had suspected.
Yes, there are still roadblocks ahead, but this decision has removed one of them. I commend the AMA for placing patient needs above politics.
Source: American Medical Association. Executive Summary – Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health. Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes.
Published On: November 24, 2009