CMA Calls for Legalization of Marijuana

March 12, 2012

The famously first rule of medicine is to "Do No Harm."  It means that doctors first duty is to not do something that will put the patient in a worse position than they were when they came to the doctor in the first place.  That has me wondering why then are more and more doctors in favor of medicinal marijuana?  What do they know that the federal government does not know, or does not want to admit for fear of losing their justification in the War on Citizens?

California's largest physician group has called for full legalization of marijuana.  They call the War on Drugs a failed public health policy.  Mind you this is a physician group - not a group of hippies wanting to smoke pot without criminal penalties, nor a group of politicians wanting to keep pharmaceutical donations rolling in.  They are seemingly an independent group of professionals who see the cause and effect of a public policy on their patients, and have decided to speak out in a unified voice against our governments policy.  Our nation was founded by a group of citizens who spoke with a unified voice against the existing government's policies that hurt their fellow citizen.

Their policy recommendation specifically calls for:

  • "Rescheduling medical cannabis in order to encourage research lending to responsible regulation.
  • Regulate recreational cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.
  • Tax cannabis
  • Facilitate dissemination of risks and benefits of cannabis use.
  • Refer for national action."

While calling for full legalization this group of doctors acknowledge that marijuana use is not risk free.  It runs about the same health risks as tobacco and alcohol use.  While this acknowledgement is commendable, I would disagree that the risk of alcohol is comparable to the risk of marijuana.  In my years of working in the criminal justice system - first as a police officer, then as a criminal defense attorney - I have never seen an act of violence associated with marijuana use that was not caused by the laws forbidding the possession or distribution of marijuana.  I have seen alcohol use directly contribute, if not cause, acts of violence.  Thus, an argument can be made that while alcohol use leads to violent activities, marijuana use leads to - at most - risky, but not violent activities.  If you eliminate the criminality of marijuana possession, then you will eliminate the violence associated with it possession.

One fear that many people have expressed across blogs and in discussions over marijuana legalization is that the government won't legalize it because they cannot control it.  Marijuana grows naturally in much of the United States.  It would be difficult for the government to tax the average Joe who grows a plant or two in his backyard.  But, is that reason enough to keep possession illegal?  I don't believe it is.  According to this Businesssweek article, the government can tax the sale of marijuana, and it's seeds, and raise between $40 billion to $100 billion in tax revenue yearly.  This article does go on to say that they fear the legalization of marijuana will ultimately cost the government more money in health care costs and other problems than it will raise in tax revenue.  I doubt this latter claim because I do not believe that marijuana usage causes as many secondary problems as alcohol usage.  

Interestingly, marijuana was made illegal at about the same time that alcohol was legalized.  Is there a pro-alcohol industry bias going on here?  Are big alcohol companies funding the fight against legalization?  A study should be done in states where medical marijuana has passed to see if there was a respective decline in alcohol sales in those states.  If so, then I would assume that alcohol companies would have a huge financial stake in whether marijuana is legalized.

It seems that marijuana legalization is coming eventually.  There is a growing chorus of people championing such a policy, including Evangelist Pat Robertson.  If the politicians on the right get behind legalization, then Obama may have yet to live up to his campaign promise to at the very least not interfere with States rights in the marijuana legalization crusade.  From a policy point, why would politicians who have to court our vote so adamantly oppose the will of the people?  Is it because of the campaign contributions they get from Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol?  Maybe, but is that enough?  What am I missing?  Give us your thoughts in the comment section below.