AirTalk for October 17, 2011

California doctors reverse their stance on legalizing pot

Medical Marijuana

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Jars full of medical marijuana are seen at Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, California.

Five years ago, California voters passed Proposition 215 legalizing marijuana for medical use; at the time, the measure was opposed by the California Medical Association (CMA). But at their annual meeting in Anaheim this year, the CMA announced that it favors the legalization of marijuana, even though the doctor group doubts the drug’s medical value.

The decision comes out of the frustration and confusion California doctors face regarding the state’s medical marijuana law, which permits doctors to prescribe a drug that is prohibited by federal law.

Dr. Donald Lyman, who wrote the new policy, said that although the medical usefulness of cannabis is still in question, the only way to test its medical validity is to legalize and study it. But this new stance appears to be as much about sociology as it is about medicine. Dr. Lyman says that current policy has failed and has resulted in increased prison costs and inequities in drug sentencing laws.

Critics of the new policy call the CMA’s position irresponsible and reckless. Meanwhile, on the federal level, the trend appears to be moving away from legalization. The Obama administration has been cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California and threatening landlords who rent to medical pot sellers.

WEIGH IN:

What do you think of the CMA’s new policy and how will it affect the argument over legalizing marijuana in California and on the federal level? Should marijuana use be legalized and regulated, like alcohol? Would making pot legal lead to better understanding of its medical value?

Guests:

Dr. Donald Lyman, chair of the Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, California Medical Association, wrote the policy paper for CMA

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, acting president, American Society of Addiction Medicine

Mark Kleiman, professor of Public Policy at UCLA, editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis


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