Activists pushing to legalize marijuana for recreation in California scored a major endorsement in July, as the state’s second-largest medical association gave its support to the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).
The AUMA is a proposed law that will appear on the statewide ballot in November. It has strong public support, and if it passes – as expected – it would make it legal to buy, possess, and use small amounts of cannabis. It would also give the state powers to regulate and tax a newly legal cannabis industry.
A number of big names in California politics and policy-making have already endorsed the ballot initiative. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom supports it, as does the state branch of the NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the California Medical Association – the largest professional group of doctors in the state.
Now that group has been joined by the California Academy of Preventive Medicine (CAPM), the second-largest medical lobby in the state. That group formally endorsed the AUMA in an announcement issued in July.
A string of AUMA endorsements
This CAPM announcement means two groups that represent the large majority of physicians in the Golden State now support full legalization of marijuana. Doctors in other states have typically been more reluctant to support the idea, and the California endorsements could help turn that tide.
Support for legalization in the healthcare industry stands in stark contrast to law enforcement groups, which almost universally oppose the AUMA. Lobbyists for police and state prison guards have raised tens of thousands of dollars to fight the proposal – though AUMA supporters have dwarfed that amount, bringing in more than $3 million in recent months.
One police group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, supports legalization, but its membership is relatively small and its political reach limited. Among doctors, however, support for marijuana reform is strong and widespread.
Widespread support among medical professionals
That may be in part because California has allowed medical cannabis for the last 20 years, demonstrating that the drug can in fact help patients without wreaking societal or medical havoc. The state’s physicians also have access to more current information about the drug’s effectiveness as medicine.
The strong backing among doctors has surprised even some lifelong reform advocates. Physicians tend to be older, whiter, and more conservative than most other people, but they are highly supportive of what they perceive to be effective medical treatments. In other words, medicinal cannabis has grown on these doctors since voters legalized it in 1996.
It’s never clear what triggers voters to support one cause or another, but the medical endorsements certainly won’t hurt chances for legalization in November. The groups’ support suggests even traditionalist physicians see marijuana as a useful treatment for a host of health problems.
“Proposition 64 is a thoughtful, comprehensive measure based on sound, evidence-based science that will protect public health and fund vital health programs for California’s youth,” said CAPM Legislative Director Donald Lyman. “Now that Gov. [Jerry] Brown and the California Legislature have regulated medical marijuana, California needs a new and safe approach to controlling and regulating adult-use marijuana — one that ends improper diversion by healthy adults into the medical system, one that allows for evidence-based clinical research into the effects of cannabis, and one that protects children and funds proven public health programs.”