Doctors for Cannabis Regulation Call for Responsible Federal Cannabis Legalization and Regulation in Recent Editorial
The November issue of the American Journal of Public Health contains an editorial penned by members of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation calling on medical professionals across the country to take action on cannabis, including support for legalization, the need for proper regulation, and research.
This marks the first time “a major American medical journal has ever run a pro-marijuana opinion by an organization of prominent physicians,” according the group. The authors chose to run their editorial in the American Journal of Public Health to best reach its central audience for the piece – doctors and other health professionals.
Who is Doctors for Cannabis Regulation?
Formed in 2016, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation includes former director of the US Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Westley Clark and former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, both of whom are credited with the editorial.
U.S. Surgeon General for a time under President Bill Clinton, Elders was forced to resign after controversy over her support of cannabis research. This didn’t stop her from fighting as an advocate of cannabis. Just last year, Elders endorsed a proposal to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.
Clark and Elders are honorary board members of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation. Also listed as an author of the editorial is David Nathan, the group’s board president and a New Jersey-based psychiatrist. The Doctors for Cannabis Regulations’ editorial was intended to provide professional medical groups specific steps to take on cannabis.
In Support of Responsible Regulation
The first point of guidance is to support federal legalization of cannabis. The group believes that only through regulation by the government can cannabis be safely used in the country. This responsible regulation of the cannabis industry will be a direct result of legalization and movement away from the black market.
“The government should oversee all cannabis production, testing, distribution, and sales,” the authors wrote. “Cannabis products should be labeled with significant detail,” including cannabinoid levels, the product’s ingredients, and instructions for proper dosing.
Next, the editorial calls on doctors and medical advocacy groups to lobby lawmakers on cannabis legalization. Doctors for Cannabis Regulation feels that the medical community must have a voice in coming cannabis laws. “We cannot abstain from the discussion,” the authors wrote. “The cannabis industry now advises lawmakers on cannabis regulation, and doctors must do so as well.”
The reason the authors of the editorial feel it is so important to support legalization is the control over the industry that comes with a well regulated system. The group detailed what they consider important regulatory steps for public health. These included restrictions on marketing to minors, child-resistant packaging, and punishment for adults distributing to minors.
The authors also called for taxation to fund research, education, prevention, and substance abuse treatment. Those programs, they wrote, “should include public information for adults on the use and misuse of cannabis, and youth programs that emphasize the risks of underage cannabis use.”
The End of Prohibition
“If nothing else, it would be important for these organizations to not oppose legalization,” Nathan said of professional medical associations like the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Doctors for Cannabis Regulation call for an end to prohibition and a passage of federal laws legalizing medical and recreational cannabis use. The group wrote, “The unjust prohibition of marijuana has done more damage to public health than has marijuana itself…The prohibition of alcohol was a success compared with our war on marijuana.”
This message echoes the beliefs of many Americans. More than half of all Americans believe that the war on marijuana is not worth the cost. Prohibition also largely impacts minority communities, like in Atlanta where 9 out of 10 marijuana arrests were of an African-American.
“Given the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis legislation in the African-American community, the legalization will reduce the likelihood that a young black man or woman will have a criminal record that will limit their ability to get an education, will limit their ability to get work, will exclude them from public housing, and could prevent them from qualifying for food stamps,” Nathan said. “It is scientifically well established that poverty will restrict access to health care, and that makes the effect of the criminalization of cannabis a public health issue just in that respect.”
“Fundamentally,” he further added, “prohibition was always a bad idea.”
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