The AMA Amends Policy on Marijuana but Continues to Oppose Legalization

amalogoThe American Medial Association (AMA) recently held its interim meeting in Maryland among its more than 500 House of Delegates. During this meeting the Association recommended and adopted changes to its policy concerning marijuana, while reaffirming its stance against legalization.

As mentioned in the US News & World Report article, the AMA continued its stance against legalizing marijuana by stating that, “cannabis is a dangerous drug and as such is a public health concern.” In addition to some reinforcement came recommendations of change and evaluation by noting that, “federal efforts to address illicit drug use via supply reduction and enforcement have been ineffective.”

Both advocates and opponents of marijuana decriminalization commented on the recent changes, each claiming minor victories since the changes also included recommending a “comprehensive review of the risks and benefits of U.S. state-based drug legalization initiatives.”

In addition to many states allowing for medicinal marijuana use, Colorado and Washington have recently approved measures for legalization and regulation of the drug for personal recreational use. Several more state legislatures are considering or preparing bills to reduce criminalization of the drug as well.

While the general consensus is that alcohol is a more serious threat to public health, the dangers of marijuana use cannot be understated. In addition to the continued increase in potency affecting motor skills and judgment, there is the fact that marijuana still represents the highest percentage of addiction treatment admissions among people between the ages of 18 and 30. According to the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), there were nearly 688,000 substance abuse treatment admissions among that age range in 2010. Of these, more than 340,000 reported marijuana abuse, and over 86 percent of those started using cannabis at age 17 or younger, so prevention efforts are essential.

The delicate balance for national drug control policy seems to lie somewhere between allowing people to live their own private lives and make good decisions for themselves vs. enforcing positive influences in public health. Either way, the majority of people who develop substance abuse problems should be given the opportunity to attend a rehabilitation program rather than being incarcerated.