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Doctors Back Legalization in California

The largest professional group of doctors in California said in February that it would back legalization in the state this year.

medical_marijuana_doctorThe California Medical Association, which represents the tens of thousands of physicians who practice in the state, announced Feb. 1 that it would support a plan to legalize marijuana in the November election.

The initiative, headed by tech billionaire Sean Parker, would make it legal to buy, possess, and use small amounts of cannabis. It would also license and regulate marijuana businesses.

Parker’s proposal is backed by a wide array of activists, environmentalists, entrepreneurs, and politicians, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. In a statement, the medical group said members believe legalizing and regulating legal cannabis would safeguard the public health better than “ineffective prohibition.”

Increasing marijuana research funding

Most important for doctors, the initiative would increase funding for marijuana research. That could give physicians more concrete answers about how the drug affects its users over long periods.

“We feel that this initiative specifically is in line with the concerns we had for better monitoring and research of cannabis,” said Molly Weedn, the association’s spokeswoman.

The doctors’ group has also backed medical marijuana legislation in the past, though the organization has protested that those laws put physicians in the uncomfortable position of controlling public access to pot.

Parkers proposal would all marijuana possession, cultivation and sale

joint-burning-smokeUnder Parker’s plan, adults 21 or older could buy up to 1 ounce of cannabis and cultivate as many as six plants. The plan would impose a 15 percent excise tax on all recreational sales.

If it passes, the plan would generate as much as $1 billion in tax revenue, according to the state’s legislative analyst and finance director. It could also make life easier for overworked doctors by cutting the number of patients who seek marijuana despite having no symptoms.

The group behind the proposal has until July to gather more than 360,000 voter signatures from across the state. If they succeed, the initiative will appear on the ballot. Support for legalization is high in California, meaning the initiative stands a good chance of succeeding in November.

Not all doctors welcome reform

Not all doctors’ associations are as progressive as California’s on the subject of cannabis. The medical community is generally white, old, and conservative. Similar groups in other states have come out in opposition to legalization.

Support from California physicians is important to the legalization movement, since many voters take their advice seriously. Reluctant doctors could slow reform or even stall it in some places.

Advocates hope more research will ease physicians’ concerns about cannabis. The legalization petition would take a big step in that direction, and with the support of the California Medical Association, it’s more likely to pass.

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