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Docs for Pot: State's Largest Doctors' Group Calls For Legalization

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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A group that represents 35,000 doctors in the state is calling for the legalization of marijuana at the federal level.

The California Medical Association, a lobbying group for doctors in the state, fights tooth and nail to protect doctors' rights to treat their patients the best way they know how. The doctors' group is complaining that right now federal policy is getting in the way of their work.

Right now pot is legal in California, but at the federal level it is still classified in the same category as heroin or LSD. That means that research advising doctors on how these treatments work is not being conducted, and doctors who consider pot a viable treatment could be breaking federal law. (And the federal government has renewed its crackdown on what it calls illegal dispensaries.)

"CMA may be the first organization of its kind to take this position, but we won’t be the last. This was a carefully considered, deliberative decision made exclusively on medical and scientific grounds," James T. Hay, M.D., the group's president elect, said in a statement. "As physicians, we need to have a better understanding about the benefits and risks of medicinal cannabis so that we can provide the best care possible to our patients."

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Not that the groups are totally sold on marijuana's benefits, according to the Los Angeles Times. The group has declared that the substance has few proven health benefits and has compared it to a "folk remedy."

But that's exactly why doctors feel that more research needs to be done.

"We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients," CMA Board Chair Dr. Paul Phinney said in a statement. "Currently, medical and recreational cannabis have no mandatory labeling standards of concentration or purity. First, we’ve got to legalize it so that we can properly study and regulate it."

Law enforcement groups, on the other hand, want to know what the docs are smoking.

"Given everything that we know about the physiological impacts of marijuana — how it affects young brains, the number of accidents associated with driving under the influence — it's just an unbelievably irresponsible position," said John Lovell, spokesman for the California Police Chiefs Association, told the Los Angeles Times.