Psychiatrists for Medical Marijuana
November 09, 2007
Jacob Sullum, Reason Magazine
The Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association, a legislative body composed of representatives from APA districts throughout the country, has unanimously approved an action paper that urges the federal government to stop interfering with the medical use of marijuana in states where it's legal.The paper, which won't be official until it receives approval from the APA's Board of Trustees in December, notes that 12 states allow patients to use marijuana for symptom relief with a doctor's recommendation, but there's a catch:
The threat of arrest by federal agents, however, still exists. Seriously ill patients living in these states with medical marijuana recommendations from their doctors should not be subjected to the treat of punitive federal prosecution for merely attempting to alleviate the chronic pain, side effects, or symptoms associated with their conditions or resulting from their overall treatment regimens...[We] support protection for patients and physicians participating in state approved medical marijuana programs.
Abraham L. Halpern, professor emeritus of psychiatry at New York Medical College and past president of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, called the vote "a landmark," adding, "As physicians, we cannot abide our patients being subject to arrest and jail for using a physician-recommended treatment that clearly relieves suffering for many who are not helped by conventional treatments." Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, says the action paper's unanimous approval "shows the growing acceptance of medical marijuana by organized medicine."
Other medical organizations that support the therapeutic use of marijuana include the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Preventive Medical Association, and various state medical societies. (Medical marijuana also has been endorsed by groups such as the American Public Health Association, the Federation of American Scientists, and the Lymphoma Foundation of America.) The American Medical Association, like the APA in earlier votes, has called for more research on the medical utility of cannabis and has said that doctors and patients should be free to discuss all "treatment alternatives" without fear of "criminal sanctions." But it has not gone as far as the new APA action paper.