November 11th, 2009
02:06 PM ET

The changing debate over medical marijuana

By Stephanie Smith
CNN Medical Producer

The national conversation about medical marijuana - in particular smoked marijuana - is complex and often polarizing.

I liken it to having a conversation with my father-in-law about politics/race/religion/poverty/health care – you name it. We start off meaning to have dignified conversation, but we inevitably spiral into growling matches peppered with words like, “those liberals…” and “c’mon, you’re smarter than that…” or “that’s crazy! That’s insane.” In reality, we are not so far apart on the issues, but somehow we can muddy the conversation so that it seems like we are.

The medical marijuana debate has been historically cast in equally polarizing terms: Groups are either for or against legalizing it.

That is what makes a subtle, nuanced move by the American Medical Association at a board meeting on Tuesday such a remarkable twist in the dialogue. The AMA shifted a 72-year-old policy about smoked marijuana, acknowledging that there could be some medical benefits, and urging reconsideration of the drug’s Schedule I status (Schedule I is a drug of abuse with “no accepted medical use.” Heroin and ecstasy are also Schedule I).

The AMA’s new policy language suggests that “marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.”

What that means is that marijuana should be reconsidered as a Schedule I drug so that wider studies can be conducted that may establish that it is worthy of prescription drug status.

The organization is quick to add that it is by no means endorsing state-based cannabis programs or legalization. It also does not go as far as to say there is evidence that cannabis meets the rigorous standards met by prescription drugs on the market now – yet.

But that “yet” is key. What the new policy - and a forthcoming study - concede is that several short-term trials have shown that smoked cannabis is effective to treat neuropathy (nerve pain) in patients with HIV and hepatitic C. It is also effective, again, in a small number of trials, for stimulating appetite for people on chemotherapy; it may also be useful for patients with multiple sclerosis, to ameliorate pain and spasms.

The idea behind this policy shift is to widen the berth of studies about smoked marijuana, and to conduct them in a controlled manner, just as is done with prescription drugs, so that the debate can quiet down and give way to scientific evidence.

Now if only I could quiet down those debates with my father-in-law.

What do you think about the AMA’s new position on medical marijuana? Do you agree that it should be taken off of Schedule I status to make way for more studies in this area?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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soundoff (317 Responses)
  1. Ed Keane III

    I am an old pothead who believes that marijuana makes a big difference with my arthritis problems. Now my wife is dealing with stage 4 cancer and chemotherapy and suddenly the benefit of smoking pot for her is stark. If she has good pot to smoke she does not feel sick. When she does suddenly feel nauseous a hit has an instantaneous effect. Fortunately we live in Northern New York where pot is good, relatively inexpensive and, most of all, decriminalized.

    We do not see or hear any information about the possible benefits of medical marijuana in any of the doctor's offices or medical facilities we visit. I have seen people obviously suffering a great deal with symptoms that might be effectively relieved by a safe and available treatment.

    I have always felt strongly that marijuana should be legal but understand the opposite viewpoint. I do not understand how anyone could see what we are experiencing now and think that we should be arrested.

    November 11, 2009 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. J

    I feel as though we should try to limit the pain, and take away the suffering, of those that need it. The active chemicals within Marijuana, naturally, take care of pain and lighten the mood of those that take it. If you could buy a pot patch, or get a pill with THC in it, we could help limit the suffering of so many.

    The laws in California are interesting but I have talked to people on the street in San Francisco that have a medical marijuana card for anxiety and carpel tunnel, just about anything. There are plenty of people with prescriptions that are very sick and it takes away the suffering.

    I don't think smoking pot is the answer, but I do think that having THC has a pain killer, and mood enhancer, is a viable option worth some research.

    November 11, 2009 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Stephen Hammond

    I'm very ill....I smoke it. From White Widow to Hash Plant I'm an expert. The real problem is cost and the gangsters behind it now. free it tax it and let folks decide...I'm mean they already have

    November 11, 2009 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kathy Isabell

    I'm glad this is being considered. When my late husband was dying of cirrhosis, he could not metabolize narcotic drugs to relieve his almost constant pain. He occasionally smoked marijuana, which helped some. He was honest about this with his doctors. They could not legitimately endorse this practice, since it was illegal, but they acknowledged that it was a valid method for pain relief. Since having two nonsmoking family members die from lung cancer, I hesitate to endorse smoking of any substance - I know THC can be safely ingested with similar pain relief effects and without damage to lung tissue. I sincerely hope cannabinoids will soon join the ranks of legitimate medicines in our society.

    November 11, 2009 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kize


    rigorous standards? please. like the numerous side effects caused by most prescription medicine? sure it will help your headache, but you could damage your liver. depressed? we got something for that...but it may lead to suicidal thoughts. or heart disease. or some other God awful side effect. marijuana's side effects? how about slight paranoia (if you get the wrong strain), the munchies (oooh, better be careful there), short term memory loss (name one person who deosn't forget the name of a person they just met), and red eyes. you tell me, where's the real trouble lie? with the rigorously tested prescription meds, or marijuana? this whole conspiracy against hippy lettuce is a joke. the wool was pulled over the eyes of the country many many years ago and people still believe it. go ahead morons, take another drink of your alcohol. that's got to be one of the biggest killers out there. a perfectly legal drug that could easily be on the list of shedule I drugs, and i can go buy it any time at my local convenience store. way to go powers that be. way to prioritize the dangerous drugs. glad you thought it through. idiots.

    November 12, 2009 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. John Banks

    I have worked in the field of addiction/recovery for the past 23 years and have watched changes happen that show significant benefit to a small group but being a resident of California, I am always hit with the Proposition 215 Medical Question and the supporters have all the answers without any scientific research. I believe the AMA is taking a stand to admit the possible positive effects versus a 72-year old policy of being closed to new information, data, studies, etc. I am not a big advocate of the Medical Marijuana Law, but in some populations and under certain conditions this drug could have some impact.

    I have always argued that not enough research is available and this will finally open that door.

    November 12, 2009 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Xander

    My concern with the medical marijuana debate has always centered on the actual evidence of medicinal benefit of the drug. For all other medicines to be considered as effective medicinal treatments they must first be approved by the FDA, the AMA, and the US government. If a substance fails to meed FDA standards, it cannot be sold. If a substance fails to meet AMA standards, it is not prescribed. and if a substance fails to meet legal standards, it cannot be produced or distributed. Thus, if we look at marijuana, it currently does not meet any of the above standards and thus should not be prescribed. Whereas it is the government's inherent responsibility to protect the population from reasonable dangers, it is not their responsibility to promote untested dangers. That is not to say that marijuana does not have positive medicinal uses or effects, but until these are properly tested – as the AMA has suggested – it should not be authorized or even promoted as a medical treatment. Along the same lines, it is utterly irresponsible for physicians to prescribe such an untested drug. This kind of action reminds me of the influenza pandemic of the early twentieth century during which paranoid mothers would create and spread recipes of homemade concoctions that supposedly prevented contraction of the deadly illness. These, like marijuana, were untested hocus pocus and consequently had either no effect, or were even detrimental in other respects. While marijuana may have positive medicinal effects, until they are soundly proven and accepted, it should not be on any ballot.

    An additional aside: my argument is not against marijuana itself, the legality of marijuana as a recreational drug is completely different and separate to issue of its potential therapeutic use. Although these two issues seem related (and in fact most voters believe they are) they are inherently separate and should not be confused. Finally, I would like to comment on the potential treatment methods. I d not believe that smoking is the most effective, or most healthy way to ingest marijuana. If these studies are to follow the same standards of other dugs then they would limit any other potential hazards and find a way to transmit the active compounds in another matter, perhaps orally or even as a vaporized compound through inhalation.

    That is my two cents, I apologize for the length and I look forward to reading additional posts.

    November 12, 2009 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. dannycasler

    I have a medicinal card for marijuana. I do not think that marijuana should be listed as a federal schedule 1 drug with major federal consequences for people who are medically benefitting from its use. I do however believe it should be made illegal to those are using it for fun or for profit. There should be penalties put in place to protect people who are following the rules and doing the right thing verse the people that see an opportunistic way to take advantage of the system

    November 12, 2009 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mohammad H

    I believe that marijuana should be allowed the chance to be studied and be given a fair amount of judgment before being cast aside as illicit. I suffer from chronic migraines and some insomnia every now and then, and have the a tolerance similar to that of an elephant. I have tried various medications, and none work; increasing the dosage only makes side effects more prominent, and necessitates another medication to combat the side effects. Why not use a heal-all combination drug (thc) that is practically impossible to overdose on, and is less toxic than asprin?

    November 12, 2009 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. nap mitty

    marijuana should not be smoked, it should be eaten. it should not be processed into a product controlled by the drug and insurance industries. get it out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of citizens.

    November 12, 2009 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dave

    First of all, the AMA needs to conduct studies on Vaporized THC not smoked. Nothing smoked is good for you, yet Marijuana that is vaporized has no flame, no carbon, and is much healthier for you.

    The AMA making a stand, and basically prodding the government into backing off so they can research it is a step in the right direction.

    It's time we start putting criminals in jail, and not people who use marijuana to treat their health problems.

    November 12, 2009 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. DB in SD

    As an active duty military member I'll never be smoking marijuana. However, as someone who has gone through two service-related back surgeries and the gamut of narcotics that goes along (a years worth), I completely understand the need for more options on the table. I would never wish the the mostly ineffective prescription pain killers I had for any one. They never worked all that well and the withdrawls were horrible. Another option on the table would be fantastic.

    November 12, 2009 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mitch in Brooklyn

    What possible reason could there be to block research? Either the medical value of marijuana will be proved or disproved. The only rational basis on which to formulate our national medical/scientific policy is science. Not the self-serving political agendas of ignorant politicians who probably failed every science class they ever took.

    November 12, 2009 at 02:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. AntonK

    Why is the medical establishment so slow in catching on? Marijuana has been used therapeutically, in some form or another, for thousands of years.

    It's about time we started asking why.

    November 12, 2009 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. raymond heald

    I am a 21/2 year survivor of lymphoma and bone marrow cancer. during my 6 month period of chemotherapy every weeks I used marijuana regularly. It does wonders for pain relief and nausea.
    I have continued to use it as the pain of osteoporis[sp] and other residual effects of the chemo will always be with me.
    I am a registered participant in Oregons Medical Marijuana program.

    November 12, 2009 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Frances Warden

    I have taught substance abuse prevention and treatment classes and have never personally used tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs, and I avoid all medications when I can. I consider myself a political and religious conservative, but I am in favor of researching medical uses for marijuana. Most legal medications carry some risk if misused, but that doesn't prevent us from making use of their appropriate benefits. It makes sense to conduct impartial research to find out the unbiased risks and benefits of any substance. Marijuana is potentially dangerous when misused, but no more so than tobacco, alcohol or the opioids in general. We should not demonize it but treat it as we would any other substance in the pharmacopoeia.

    November 12, 2009 at 03:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jimmie Pittman

    I 100% support this decision by the AMA. Marijuana needs to be removed as as schedule I drug so that real, legal, research,tests, and trials can be completed. Visit http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=5441 for more info on medical marijuana.

    November 12, 2009 at 03:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. thomas mickle

    I'm heartened by the news that some studies will be done to see if marijuana can help those in need. Patients who have access to it now say it works. There is NO good reason that it is a Schedule 1 drug.

    November 12, 2009 at 03:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Tom

    Since one cannot overdose on marijauna, just take a moment and consider the number of prescription drugs that it can replace. It's hard to make a profit off of something that grows in the back yard and studies have shown, fights cancer cells (don't know how trustworthy these studies are, one was done at some place called Harvard). Cheers.

    November 12, 2009 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Susan

    There may certainly be some valid scenarios for the use of medical marijuana. I haven't used any since the 70's, but that memory makes me wonder how safe this drug will be, for example, when someone gets behind the wheel. It definitely impairs driving. I also had a friend who smoked so much it literally ruined his life (even though he never escalated to more powerful drugs).

    Will there be age restrictions? Can a high school athlete 18 years of age with a torn ligament get a prescription?How about parents' ability to care for young children while high? Is it easier just to give Junior a little toke off the bong to keep him mellow? Of course that would be illegal, but who's going to report it or even find out about it?

    I'm not a prude, but I gave up this form of recreation when I became pregnant with my first child, and have never revisited it. The AMA and society at large must look carefully at not just the benefits but also the potential pitfalls. The threshold question is whether this type of "medication" can be safely dispensed throughout the general population, considering the difficulty of monitoring both use and prescription.

    November 12, 2009 at 04:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Corwin7

    It is certainly not a miracle drug and it IS a drug although an extremely mild one with very mild side effects, it should never have been classified schedule 1 in the first place. The medical benefits are apparent and easily seen by anyone willing to look...unfortunately politics were involved so as you say...vision is usually the first casuality. I'm glad to see you revised your opinion based on some actual facts this time instead of the purely propagandist talking points you used in your first opinion piece about medical marijuanna. Thanks so much for taking a closer look at the issue...please keep looking. The psychological aspects have barely been investigated beyond establishing that it's mildly psychologically addictive. I honestly believe this drug helped me control my manic depressive episodes much better than prosac ever did with 0 potential toxic side effects. The effects of smoking the old fashioned way I'm sure still apply, but improvements in delivery have eliminated most of those. I'm not asking that you endorse or condone the act but it's refreshing to see some one take an honest look instead of sneering and dismissing "out of hand" what could very well turn out to be valid evidence.

    November 12, 2009 at 04:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Marty

    Well, I think it should be completely legalized today, along with plenty of other "dangerous" drugs, but...baby steps...

    This is huge. Getting the AMA to even look at this presents a glimmer of hope. The one thing I hope gets brought out in all this is that it is by no means necessary to smoke marijuana to reap its benefits. Vaporization is the future, and smoking marijuana (and tobacco, for that matter) will soon be as old-fashioned as rotary telephones.

    If the fire and smoke are taken out of the equation, the little danger associated with smoking marijuana is gone. What is left for the puritans to preach the dangers of when that happens?

    November 12, 2009 at 04:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Erin

    This change is long overdue. Doctors all over the country have begun to recognize the medicinal values of cannabis, and it is important to bring the science into the national forefront. There is more than enough evidence to warrant proactive government on this issue, the debate should be over.

    November 12, 2009 at 04:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Ryan A

    Of course it should be taken off schedule 1, it's rediculous that it is on there in the first place. There is a lot of potential in cannibus, both commercially (i.e. hemp based products) and medically. We need to move beyond the ignorance and fear, and not throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to the benefits that marijuna way confer upon our society if examined in a unbiased and scientific manner.

    November 12, 2009 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Steve

    As a medical student i must applaud the AMA and say it is about time. The legality of medical marijuana is long over due for another look, and this is a good step in the right direction. As a drug marijuana would be considered one of the most beneficial and safest on the market. This drug could promote appetite in those unable to eat due to cancer, reduces pain in millions affected with chronic pains, all while having minimal addictive properties with nearly no chance of overdose. Bravo AMA, bravo.

    November 12, 2009 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Kris

    Dear Stephanie,

    While the current practices and studies for the medical use of Marijuana are becoming more acceptable these days, I caution people to not view this as "another loophole" for people to gain legal access to Marijuana.

    I suffer from severe tendonitis, cupital tunnel syndrome, and arthritis in my wrists and hands. Currently, my only legal options for pain management medications are limited to narcotic controlled substances, which have been shown to give patients a chemical dependency.

    I have read many different articles from reputable medical professionals that Marijuana as has a significant capacity to provide an anti-inflammatory relief. I have also seen real results of this in a family member who lives in a state that allows the medical use of Marijuana. He has seen more relief through the medical use of Marijuana than any pill prescription he has ever used.

    While I am very much in favor of expanding the research of medical Marijuana use, I suggest that we look beyond our societys' stereotypes and explore the benefits of this drug to lesser, but overwhelmingly common conditions where infammation affects everyday life, right down to a persons' mobility. The benefits, I believe, would help legitimize the expansion of this research.

    After reading your column here, I do wonder what your Father-in-Law would say to my post. I do get an "Old School" impression based on his comments, but even "Old School" can be optimistic when it comes to helping people.

    Thanks you for your time.

    Kris Heidbrier

    November 12, 2009 at 04:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Tricia

    I think it is a positive step in the right direction. I think the demonization of marijuana in ridiculous, considering sustances that are medically proven to cause harm such as alcohol and nicotine are legal and widely accepted.

    Once the "corporate establishment" can prove that marijuana has medical applications, you just wait to see how fast it is rushed to the market! So, while the big-bidness-boys make gazillions dollars off of their new formulas, our governement will most likely still be locking up casual users of street purchased pot.

    November 12, 2009 at 05:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. nihalsam, switzerland

    Why are we polarized? Because the information fed to us, and on which we base our judgement – whether it is about marijuana or anything else – , is intended to polarize. Today's news media lives on controversy and conflict, not harmony; it is their oxygen. I am sure, for instance, that almost nobody would have objected to so-called "same-sex-marriages" if the word MARRIAGE hadn't been stuffed down their throats.

    November 12, 2009 at 05:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. doug

    Come on people. Anyone that has ever experimented with the harmless natural herb and the other mentioned drugs knows that they are in no way similar. I think that marijuana has so many positive uses and we are fools for not allowing our citizens to exercise our so called freedom for free enterprise and science. Who knows, tax the stuff and maybe we can pay for healthcare and all the other spending that our government has been recently spending.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. MuNNcH

    There are always commercials on TV how a prescription drug could kill or damage peoples health and there are lawsuits against them. Marijuana is much safer with less side effects than many prescription drugs. Any arguments about it causing lung cancer or being harmful because you smoke it don't make sense. The THC can be extracted and can be eaten instead of inhaled.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Layla Hanafee

    There is no harm in running trials on marijuana. The worst that could happen would be that marijuana is proven not to have any medical validity. At its best it could ease thousands of peoples' pain and suffering.
    Once we have a definitive answer from the medical community our lawmakers will be able to make truly informed and up to date decisions about the drug. I believe these trials need to happen, its owed to us as U.S citizens to finally know the truth about marijuana.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Mike - Delaware

    I can appreciate both sides of the issue. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we discover that it can be used to treat several ailments? Or, we might just be able to put to rest once and for all that it is a useless plant whose only purpose is to get someone intoxicated.
    Let's allow the scientific community to analyze and provide an unbiased report.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Chaves MD

    We need to continue research on cannabinoids, and the position of the AMA in that regard is reasonable. But the current popular movement for medical marijuana is in fact an attempt at at back door to legalize recreational drug abuse. We don't see festivals for any other drugs or therapies in the pipeline, I was even told by a young man who wanted me to sign a petition that it isn't really a drug. I do believe the legal penalties are too stiff, the drug is fairly benign but still a drug of abuse and an intoxicant, so the law should not be blind to it. Reasonable positions and cooler heads should continue to prevail I hope, and the AMA took a step in the right direction.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. you dont care

    Stupid laws not the plant ruins life. I stopped being on the honor roll and decided since all you windbags want to call smokers names,no good etc and blame all of societies ills on a plant, good for you. You crashed the economy with reckless spending,over paid union lackeys and made up wars. So proud of yourselves you claim"drug free" is what you are.
    Look at the mess you "straights" made. Bailouts,unethical behavior and yet you call me the bad guy. Enjoy your sty while I get high. I relish the though of you destroying your own country while you abandon "freedom of choice". BTW, crop 2009 is fantastic and my self medication program has resulted in no broken bones, no hospital visits,no cavities and the common sense of keeping my money in my pocket not some pharma.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. J Atkings

    The relief mild marijuana gave to my mother, who had metastatic cancer, when not even the strongest pain killers would ease the suffering made a huge difference in the quality of the end years of her life. It is a good thing to see they are at least considering new options regarding the issue.

    One thing I have not seen in news articles regarding medical marijuana use is the fact that many medical marijuana patients don't smoke it. They either use it in food or they vaporize it. Eating an equivalent synthetic tablet wasn't an option for my mother as she wasn't able to keep things down long enough for it to take effect. The vapor offered an option where she didn't have to ingest foods orally, nor did she have to put burnt particles from smoke into her lungs. I've been wondering why smoking it is always mentioned when the other possibly healthier methods aren't.

    November 12, 2009 at 06:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Danny Wilkerson

    People for legislation of drugs (marijuana in u.s.) are more concerned with the right to get high then for actual medical benefits .Smoking is unhealthy no matter if it's marijuana or tobacco.

    If people want cannabis for health reasons, why are they not advocating eating it rather then smoking? Why are marijuana supporters not talking about altering THC so that a person can get the benefits without causing brain impairment? Are there safer alternatives? Where is the scientific research comparing cannabis to current treatments? Where is a list of current medications that cannabis is supposedly better then? Where is the scientific data concerning levels of THC that could be used safely for a specific medical reason? Why don't cannabis supporters advocate for using the least amount as possible to mitigate side effects?

    As far as AMA, i don't see any announcements from them saying we should look into SMOKING cigarettes as treatments for stress and weight loss.

    Marijuana users (in general) want the right to get high under the guise of medical benefits. Anyone that cannot see the truth is blind.

    November 12, 2009 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Wife of MS patient

    Marijuana is the only medication that helps my husband's leg spasms, which sometimes are so severe his entire body shakes and he loses control over the muscles. It also alleviates the pain that accompanies the spasms. We are nearing the completion of the process to obtain the drug legally in our state but currently have to find sources outside the law. It would be so much easier if his neurologist could just write a prescription and he could have it filled at his usual pharmacy. A little human compassion from lawmakers would make his illness much easier to bear.

    November 12, 2009 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Michael McCarthy

    I am a Libertarian. All drugs should be legal for adults. They should be regulated and taxed with warnings issued and rehab should be made available. The drug war could be ended at this point, saving us billions of dollars and decreasing the violence of our own law-enforcement agencies. No more no-knock warrants and bullets flying in our neighborhoods. Arrest people for breaking laws. Not for putting substances in their own bodies. That truly is ridiculous.

    November 12, 2009 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Elizabeth Verkennis

    What do I think? I think it is LONG over due, and I am cheering as I sit here reading all the articles coming forth since this statement was made by the AMA. This is a huge victory for Medical Marijuana Advocates, as we have been WANTING studies as they mention to be conducted for years to support the evident results we already know.

    I will follow this closely, reports from any studies will be in high demand. I have a file myself on all the supporting documents currently available. I am sure others do too.

    Thank you for bringing this to a broader public forum.


    November 12, 2009 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. D. Poniatowski

    I think medical science is advancing by leaps and bounds, and that we are now finding the potential for medicine where we once saw none. Given the rise of new flu strains, new anti-biotic resistant staph infections, etc., we need to investigate every avenue possible and strengthen our arsenal of medications.

    November 12, 2009 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Julia

    Prescription drugs and alcohol are highly addictive and highly abused, yet they are still legal. When is this country going to wake up?

    November 12, 2009 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Lauren in Brooklyn

    I wish that there was another way to take marijuana into one's system other than smoking it. It is yet another "second-hand smoke" that I don't enjoy experiencing. In fact, I hate the smell. My simple concern about its use is how non-users may be impacted.

    I could wish that it would be marketed in the form of an inhaler, similar to that used by asthmatics.

    But I know that this is wishful thinking.

    November 12, 2009 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mark Richardson

    It's not all one or all the other– it's both: we should decriminalize but control pot use, as we do cigarettes and alchohol. Our current policy puts pot in the hands of dealers who also sell hard drugs (creating the "gateway" connection), it diverts police resources away from real crime, and the enforcement actions ruin lives, all of which is unnecessary. In addition, we are enriching drug cartels and losing potential tax revenue. We should define "abuse" to exclude normal use, as with cigarettes and alcohol. We shoud include "high on pot" under DUI; after all, it is intoxicating. Don't push pot into the shadows and thus into the arms of criminals, as we did with prohibition of alcohol. Bring it into the light and let fed, state and local governments control it rationally.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. William S Ricard

    My assumption is that those who are opposed to medical marijuana have not witnessed the devastating effects of terminal cancer. My wife has stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer. There is no cure for her. She will die in a few short months. The argument of addiction is moot.

    Both of us are suffering from this disease. She with pain, loss of appetite, and vomiting up the little that she tries to eat. Myself with helplessly watching the one I love so dearly go through this without relief. She is dieing and my heart is breaking.

    I have no idea if or how smoking marijuana might help her condition. There are thousands of rumors and opinions that insist the use of marijuana might bring her some relief. She is, after all, "a dead man walking." What hard-hearted logic deems it morally acceptable to deny a dieing person anything that might bring some relief.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Mke F

    Of course it should be reclassified.Drugs are not all the same.Some,
    {cocaine,painkillers,heroin} kill you much faster than others like alcohol or nicotene. Marijuana might not be great for you long term but if it keeps people from other drugs that are much worse it is a good thing.The government should regulate and tax it. It should be treated like alcohol,although it`s not nearly as harmful to you.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Gene

    Now I understand why only 10% of all physicians nationwide are members of the AMA. First an endorsement of the healthcare debacle, second an opinion on gay marriage, and now a push into marijuana. I would say as a practicing physician that it is safe to say, the remainder of our 90% will retain nonmember status and never join the AMA.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. jim - illinois

    I agree, there is no reason for marijuana to be a Schedule 1 drug! At least reclassify it and begin clinical trials.

    With the current state of the economy, I predict that within 5 – 10 years it will be decriminalized. It will not be legalized from a moral standpoint, but from a revenue generating standpoint. Just as you see happening in California.

    If you look at the method the gambling industry took to legalize gambling, you see the same thing happening with marijuana. From small "entertainment only" riverboats to full blown land based casinos, it took a few years but they got the job done, simply because the tax revenue is to lucrative.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Michael

    Yes, it should be taken off the Schedule I status and studied. I have seen the benefits of its use several times. My father died, at home, of colon cancer, that spread, in the early 90's. They gave him morphine via IV drip to combat the pain, but he was not able to eat much and had trouble keeping anything down he was wasting away. He started using smoked marijuana, just a couple "tokes" and it helped alot. He "benefited" from the use. He said it helped with the pain and his ability to keep food down. The debate for legalization is not the issue, today, medicinal use should be the focus of the debate, today. I know of another family member that use marijuana to combat IBS, she used pills for years with many side effects, liver and stomach, with marijuana smoked a couple times a day she has improved greatly. don't know about clinical studies ect., I just know what I have witnessed and read regarding the benefits and there are benefits. My concern is that the drug companies will direct the studies and manipulate the results to their favor because how would they control something that almost anyone who grows a garden can grow.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Tim S.

    Yes, it should be taken off of the Schedule I status. However, It was my impression that prior to the 60's and during the 60-70's that extensive studies where completed to include the plant's life cycle Is this not true ?

    Or would these studied efforts just be a avenue to produce a synthetic (sp) product for the pharmacutical industry ? If so, then why pay for something that one can grow for a little bit of soil and water.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Rage

    I believe it should stay Schedule I status until it is proven that there are real medical uses as a prescription drug. Drug research companies should be allowed to explore the possibilities for the use of medical marijuana but it should not be legalized. I as a future business owner would never hire or continue to employ a person who tests positive for THC. The liability of having a person under the influence of THC on the job is too great and opens up the work place to being unsafe for coworkers. Not to mention the possibility of this under the influence person landing myself and my business in the court room being sued. Can you imagine your airline pilot smoking marijuana trying to land? Lord knows what you might get going through the drive through. I need clear headed people to work for me, not a druged up pot head.

    November 12, 2009 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.