CA Medical Association won't back medical pot bill because of lack of research

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The California Medical Association says its opposition to a bill in the state legislature that would require doctors to be more involved with medical marijuana patients is based on the lack of solid science on medical pot, a situation linked to its ongoing status as an illegal drug under federal law.

State Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) is carrying the bill, SB 1262. It would require doctors to examine patients and discuss the risks of medical marijuana. If a patient is under 21, a pediatrician would have to prescribe the cannabis.  

The League of  California Cities teamed up with the California Police Chiefs Association to write the bill. They were responding to widespread reports of abuse within the medical marijuana program. "We know of examples where a doctor was conducting examinations over Skype," said Chris Boyd, Citrus Heights Police Chief  and president of the California Police Chiefs Association.  

Boyd also spoke of  "doctors really just hanging out at rock concerts, a boardwalk or a beach and soliciting and handing out marijuana cards."

But the California Medical Association counters that doctors should not be required to discuss the risks of medical pot, because there is not enough solid research on the drug, said spokeswoman Molly Weedn. And that lack of science, argued Weedn, is linked to the fact that the federal government has kept it classified as an illegal Schedule I drug. 

The medical association publicly supports the federal legalization and regulation of medical cannabis, based on a white paper  it issued in 2011.

The association does not track how many -- or which -- doctors are prescribing medical marijuana, said Weedn.

Earlier versions of SB 1262 would have required doctors to discuss dosage and different types of cannabis, but those provisions were removed after the medical association objected to them, said Tim Comartie, legislative representative at the League of  California Cities.

The bill would also require medical marijuana dispensaries to get licensed by the state. 

SB 1262 goes to the Senate Health Committee next week.

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