Marijuana continues its long march back to a respected place in the pharmacopeia. In recent weeks, two more medical organizations have adopted positions signaling the plant's increasing acceptance as a medicine.
On May 14, the Texas Medical Association (TMA), the nation's largest state medical association, unanimously adopted a policy recommendation on marijuana saying that doctors and patients should be free to discuss the use of marijuana as a treatment option for various medical conditions. While the TMA did not offer an outright endorsement of medical marijuana, the policy recommendation marked an advance over the association's last statement on the issue in 1998.
The 1998 policy, which specified that the TMA did not condone the recreational use of marijuana, merely called for research into marijuana's "deleterious effects and any possible beneficial uses" should be undertaken. But the TMA's concern was with what it saw as the abuse of the herb, as it noted then that "medical treatment of persons who become significantly involved in the recreational use of marijuana may be indicated."
While reaffirming the 1998 recommendation's call for more research on medical marijuana, "including well-controlled studies in patients who have serious pain-related conditions," the TMA's Council on Scientific Affairs, zealously guarding the professional prerogatives of physicians, inserted the following language, which was approved by TMA delegates: "The Texas Medical Association supports the physician's right to discuss with his or her patients any and all possible treatment options related to the patients' health and clinical care, including the use of marijuana, without the threat to physician or patient of regulatory, disciplinary, or criminal sanctions."
A week later and a couple of thousand miles to the north, the Canadian AIDS Society's Board of Directors also updated its 1998 position on medical marijuana, and it went quite a bit further than the Texas doctors. In a position statement adopted May 20, the Canadian AIDS Society called not only for access to medical marijuana for people with HIV/AIDS, but also for a panoply of other measures, including the legalization of marijuana for any purpose.
"People living with HIV/AIDS should have access to cannabis for medicinal purposes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS through a compassionate framework," said the AIDS society. "People living with HIV/AIDS should have a choice as to the cannabis product they want to consume, and should have access to a safe, legal, reliable, affordable, fresh and organic source of cannabis." And they should be able to grow their own, the society added for good measure.
The society endorsed "more clinical studies on all of the active ingredients in cannabis and their effects on health." It called for the creation of a Canadian research agenda on marijuana and called on Health Canada to expand its research agenda and include compassion clubs in its funding and as stakeholders on the issue. The Canadian AIDS Society also called on Health Canada to improve its widely-ridiculed medical marijuana supply program by growing organic strains and by granting cultivation contracts to a variety of experienced growers.
But, perhaps recognizing the obvious solution to the problem of cannabis supplies for HIV/AIDS patients, the Canadian AIDS Society called for legalization of the herb. The society "favors a controlled legalization system for cannabis in Canada, where the production, distribution and consumption are regulated, designated cannabis distribution centers are established and recognized, and appropriate prevention messages and harm reduction strategies are developed."
The TMA policy recommendations
are only available online to TMA members at:
The Canadian AIDS Society position statement is available online at: http://www.cdnaids.ca/web/position.nsf/cl/cas-pp-0021