Even as it dismissed marijuana as having questionable medical value, the California Medical Association adopted a position urging the legalization of marijuana at its recent annual meeting. Representing over 35,000 physicians throughout California, this is the first statewide medical association to endorse the legalization of marijuana, a major milestone for opponents of marijuana prohibition.
In a press release, CMA president-elect, Dr. James T. Hay acknowledged the novelty of the CMA's position, but expressed confidence that other physicians' groups in the broader medical community will be soon to follow:
"CMA may be the first organization of its kind to take this position, but we won’t be the last. This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds. As physicians, we need to have a better understanding about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis so that we can provide the best care possible to our patients."
The CMA's nuanced position includes the possibility that marijuana might not hold much in the way of medicinal value, but asserts that the medical community will never be able to know for sure one way or the other until more research can be conducted, which the CMA says is nearly impossible with marijuana's present illicit status as a federally-scheduled drug. Sacramento physician, Dr. Donald Lyman, who authored the California Medical Association's new official position, said:
"It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for."
The association also acknowledges that marijuana carries health risks, not unlike the use of nicotine and alcohol, but qualifies that it should also be legal and regulated like nicotine and alcohol, arguing that the effects of prohibition have caused more harm to public health and families than the potential risks of marijuana use. In fact, Dr. Lyman asserts that prohibition of marijuana has "proven to be a failed public health policy."
The surprising news comes just as the federal government has ramped up efforts to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in California, including an aggressive new strategy that involves going after any landlords that lease to marijuana-related business and any newspapers or other media that carry medical marijuana advertising. California, it would seem, is the hottest front in the ongoing war between marijuana legalization advocates and the prohibition regime, a war that the prohibitionists may end up losing in the end...
Record High, 50% of Americans Support Legalizing Marijuana
While the federal government steps up its aggressive prosecution of the medicinal marijuana industry in California, the CMA's new position also comes at a time when more Americans than ever believe that marijuana should be legalized. According to Gallup's most recent poll, published Monday, 50% of respondents say that marijuana should be legalized, the largest ever percentage since Gallup started asking the question in 1969:
"When Gallup first asked about legalizing marijuana, in 1969, 12 percent of Americans favored it, while 84 percent were opposed. Support remained in the mid-20s in Gallup measures from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but has crept up since, passing 30 percent in 2000 and 40 percent in 2009 before reaching the 50 percent level in this year's Oct. 6-9 annual Crime survey."
Gallup's figures through the decade suggest an exponential growth in the percentage of legalization advocates, which has promising implications for the legalization movement over the next decade. It took ten years for the percentage of legalization supporters to jump ten percent from 30% to 40%, and only two years to jump another ten percent to Gallup's most recent figure.
Taken together with the California Medical Association's new precedent, this news indicates the rapid mainstreaming and social acceptance of legalizing marijuana. Adding its voice to the record 50% of Americans who now support legalizing marijuana, this association's new position is extremely significant. This isn't a jobless, twenty-something, "know-it-all" swearing to you at party that marijuana helps him drive better and promising to email you the link to a YouTube video about someone who "cured cancer" with the plant.
This is a well-respected academic and trade organization saying:
"We're not sure it has any medical value. We are sure it can be bad for your health just like alcohol and nicotine can be. But we just can't ignore all the harm prohibition has done. We should legalize it, regulate it, and do research to try to understand it better."
That's the kind of reasoned statement coming from the kind of people that could go a long way toward convincing another ten percent or more of Americans in another two years or less.