AMA: Allow patient-doctor medical pot talk

High hopes for hemp?
Debating medicinal marijuana


DELEGATES AT THE AMA’s semi-annual policy-making committee in Dallas approved a resolution that recommends allowing free discussion between doctors and patients about marijuana use for such condition as multiple sclerosis.

“The AMA believes that effective patient care requires the free and unfettered exchange of information on treatment alternatives and that discussion of these alternatives between physicians and patients should not subject either party to criminal sanctions,” the resolution said.

It also recommended that “adequate and well-controlled studies of smoked marijuana” be carried out to measure the possible benefits for patients suffering a range of serious illnesses or injuries.

The nation’s first federally funded study will begin in January. San Francisco AIDS specialist Dr. Donald Abrams recently was granted approval for a a pilot trial to determine if marijuana helps to increase appetite in HIV-positive patients — give them the “munchies,” as it were — thereby warding off the debilitating weight loss associated with the AIDS wasting syndrome.

Proponents of pot say it helps AIDS patients keep eating; relieves nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy; alleviates the chronic pain of conditions including headaches, arthritis and degenerative nerve disease; reduces spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients; and lowers the increased intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma.

But the AMA delegates made no recommendation on whether doctors should actually be allowed to advise their patients to use marijuana, or whether medicinal marijuana use should be legalized.

Advocates of medicinal marijuana applauded the AMA’s move but said it did not go far enough.

“It is a tremendous step in the right direction but it doesn’t address those other issues,” said Chuck Thomas of a Washington-based group called Marijuana Policy Project.

The proposal also is guaranteed to evoke strong protests from Clinton Administration drug czar Barry McCaffrey and other marijuana critics.

The AMA represents more than 40 percent of the 675,000 doctors in the United States.

Reuter contributed to this story.