Can California Doctors Avoid Responsibility for Medical Marijuana Abuses?
Last week the California Medical Association, a lobbying group representing more than 40,000 members statewide, officially threw its support behind a proposed November ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Around the same time, Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois vetoed 8 new conditions for medical marijuana under that state’s experimental program which started in November. Illinois, in contrast to California, requires the patient and the physician to have a bona fide physician-patient relationship. It also requires record keeping, which California does not require for “medical” pot. (Illinois’ medical marijuana industry is worried because only 4,000 patients have been approved.)
Why would the California Medical Association (CMA) support something that every other state and national medical group opposes? In a statement released by the California legalization campaign, the CMA stressed they do not encourage marijuana use and discourage smoking. They gave two reasons. First, under a legal market, cannabis could be monitored, researched, regulated and mitigated to protect the public health. Secondly, improper diversion by healthy patients into the medical marijuana system could be reduced. The second condition gives a hint at how poorly medical marijuana in California really works, contrary to the way for which it was intended.
Citizens Against the Legalization of Marijuana Responds
Three citizens’ groups have introduced The Safe and Drug Free Communities Act, now called the MEDICAL MARIJUANA. INITIATIVE STATUTE, to roll back the widespread abuses created by California’s medical marijuana program. Scott Chipman is co-chairman of Californians Against the Legalization of Marijuana (CALM) and a sponsor of the Safe and Drug-Free Communities Act. Chipman explained how he sees the position of the CMA: “This is passing the buck for their own convenience and ignoring their primary responsibilities – first, ‘to do no harm’ and also to educate patients regarding sound health care practices.”
“Less than half of California doctors belong to the CMA. This endorsement of a just-to-get-high marijuana initiative is more of a union leadership ideology… not a medical, public safety position and not likely supported by the membership generally.
“Ironically, one of the biggest problems contributing to the back-door legalization is the medical malpractice of issuing of marijuana recommendations for any ailment with no examination by doctors who are accomplices in criminal drug dealing.
“I have 3 pot recommendations and have never seen a doctor for any of the recommendations.
“We need doctors to help close down the back door legalization drug dealing that is occurring in California, not give into it. Nearly every major medical association, including American Medical Association, have taken positions against legalization as well as using botanical marijuana inappropriately for medical purposes.”
The approved medical conditions in California are limitless and anyone age 18 and over can get a card. Today tens of thousands of 18-20-year-olds in California are getting recreational pot this way. Legalization will not stop this problem, and in fact will intensify the problem by making it more available to younger children. The Safe and Drug Free Communities Act would roll back on medical marijuana, limit it to one state grow site and keep it in the hands of county health departments.
Just last week, the American College of Physicians issued a report in the rise in marijuana-related hospital admissions. A hospital in Olympia, Washington, where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes, reported 1-2 cases of emergency treatment for marijuana-induced psychosis each day. A cynical view would see this move by California’s physician lobbying arm as the desire to have more people in need of physicians’ services, particularly for the psychiatrists.
Rescheduling Marijuana to Get More Research?
When asked about the rescheduling of marijuana for research, Chipman explained: “Scheduling of marijuana as a schedule I drug is not precluding studies. There have been at least 12,000 studies. Some of those studies were suspended after exposing participants to harm.” Major court decisions have come down against the rescheduling of marijuana, and President Obama made it clear that loosening restrictions on marijuana is not on his agenda for this year.
While some physicians’ groups support the rescheduling of marijuana, basically all national physicians’ groups are opposed to marijuana legalization. Many of these groups are very skeptical of “medical” marijuana.
Unfortunately, recent action in the California state legislature suggests that politicians listen to the marijuana industry more than they care about the will of the people and local jurisdictions.