A large and respected association of physicians wants the federal government to ease its ban on marijuana as medicine and hasten research into the drug’s therapeutic uses, the Los Angeles Times reports. The American College of Physicians, the nation’s largest organization of doctors of internal medicine, with 124,000 members, contends that the long and rancorous debate over marijuana legalization has obscured good science that has demonstrated the benefits and medicinal promise of cannabis. The group calls on the government to drop marijuana from Schedule I, a classification it shares with illegal drugs such as heroin and LSD that are considered to have no medicinal value and a high likelihood of abuse. The declaration could put new pressure on lawmakers and government regulators who for decades have rejected attempts to reclassify marijuana.
Researchers say the federal government has resisted full study of the potential medical benefits of cannabis, instead pouring money into looking at its negative effects. A dozen states including California have legalized medical marijuana, but the federal prohibition has led to an enforcement tug of war. “We felt the time had come to speak up about this,” said Dr. David Dale, the medical group’s president. “We’d like to clear up the uncertainty and anxiety of patients and physicians over this drug.” The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said calls for legalizing medical marijuana are misguided. “What this would do is drag us back to 14th century medicine,” said the agency’s Bertha Madras. “It’s so arcane.” She said guidance on marijuana as medicine ought to come from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which she said is unlikely ever to approve leafy cannabis as a prescription drug.