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American Medical Association

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 4, 2011

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

    The U.S. Senate has confirmed Michelle Leonhart by unanimous consent to head the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Miss Leonhart had served as interim director of the agency since November 2007. President Barack Obama had nominated Leonhart in February to serve as the agency’s director.

    Numerous drug policy reform organizations, including NORML, had opposed Leonhart’s confirmation – arguing that her actions as interim DEA administrator were contrary to the Obama administration’s pledge to allow science, rather than rhetoric and ideology, guide public policy.

    For example, Ms. Leonhart oversaw dozens of federal raids on medical marijuana providers and producers. These actions took place in states that have enacted laws allowing for the use and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes, and are inconsistent with an October 19, 2009 Department of Justice memo recommending federal officials no longer “focus … resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

    Miss Leonhart also blocked scientific research that sought to better identify and quantify marijuana’s medicinal properties and efficacy. In particular, Ms. Leonhart neglected to reply to an eight-year-old petition calling for administrative hearings regarding the rescheduling marijuana for medical use. Such hearings were called for in 2009 by the American Medical Association, which resolved “that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.” Moreover, in January 2009, Ms. Leonhart refused to issue a license to the University of Massachusetts for the purpose of cultivating marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s ruling that it would be “in the public interest” to grant this request.

    Finally, Ms. Leonhart has exhibited questionable judgment when speaking about the subject of escalating drug war violence in Mexico. In 2009, she described this border violence — which is responsible for over 31,000 deaths since December 2006 — as a sign of the “success” of her agency’s anti-drug strategies.

    Commenting on Ms. Leonhart’s confirmation, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Ms. Leonhart’s actions and ambitions are incompatible with state law, public opinion, and with the policies of this administration. It is unlikely that we will see any serious change in direction of the DEA under Ms. Leonhart’s leadership.”

    In December, Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl had placed a hold on Ms. Leonhart’s nomination. Senator Kohl dropped his hold on December 22, and the Senate unanimously confirmed Leonhart’s nomination the following day.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 19, 2009

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

    Members of the California Medical Association’s (CMA) House of Delegates have endorsed a resolution stating that the criminal prohibition of marijuana is a “failed public health policy.”

    As enacted, Resolution 704a-09, the “Criminalization of Marijuana” states: “[The] CMA considers the criminalization of marijuana to be a failed public health policy, … and encourage[s] … debate and education regarding the health aspects of changing current policy regarding cannabis use.”

    The California Medical Association has more than 35,000 members statewide.

    The newly adopted resolution coincides with the scheduling of legislative hearings regarding Assembly Bill 390, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, which seeks to tax and regulate the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older.

    The California Assembly Committee on Public Safety is anticipated to vote on AB 390 by late January.

    Last week, the American Medical Association resolved that “marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.” The organization had previously called for cannabis to be “retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act,” a legal classification that defines the substance and its natural compounds as possessing “no currently accepted use in treatment in the United States.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2009

    The Schedule I federal classification of cannabis — which states that, by law, the marijuana plant and its natural compounds have “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” — has long since passed the point of farcical. Nevertheless, defenders of the so-called “Schedule I lie” have possessed, for nearly 30 years, one prestigious ally that they could always rely on to endorse their absurd position: the American Medical Association.

    Not anymore!

    Today the AMA voted to reverse its longstanding endorsement of cannabis’ Schedule I prohibitive status. The vote took place during the organization’s annual Interim Meeting of the House of Delegates in Houston, Texas, and marks the first time that the AMA has revisited its position on cannabis in eight years.

    As newly amended, the AMA’s official position (see specifically pages 12, 13, and 14) regarding the medical use of cannabis no longer “recommends that marijuana be retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.” Rather, the Association now resolves “that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.”

    The AMA also today demolished long-held pot prohibitionist claim — frequently publicized by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and others — that “no sound scientific studies have supported medical use of smoked marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data support the safety or efficacy of smoked marijuana for general medical use.” To the contrary, the AMA has adopted a report drafted by its Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH) entitled, “Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes,” which states, “Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.”

    Now that the AMA has finally acknowledged reality, is anyone else wondering if David Evans (or the DEA) will finally update their talking points?