Commentary: New ASAM Policy Statement on Marijuana Emphasizes Public Health and Safety

The national discussion on the legal status of marijuana has been a hot-button issue since Colorado became the first state to legalize the recreational use and retail manufacturing and sale of the substance in 2012. Since then, Washington, Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C. have also legalized cannabis use for adults, in addition to the 23 states and Washington, D.C. that have legalized cannabis for non-FDA-approved medicinal uses under state law. In light of these recent societal and political experiments surrounding the regulation of marijuana and with legalization ballot initiatives expected in several states in 2016, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) updated their policy statement on marijuana so that it speaks to the broad public health and safety aspects of such measures.

ASAM’s new Policy Statement on Marijuana, Cannabinoids and Legalization is the result of a months-long research and writing process that was spearheaded by Drs. Michael Miller, Norm Wetterau and Jeff Wilkins, and overseen by ASAM’s Public Policy Committee. This timely, new statement details the latest research on the health and public health effects of marijuana use, as well as the potential medicinal benefits of particular cannabinoids. It also discusses the political and social attitudes about marijuana that inform the current debate around legalization, and differentiates efforts to decriminalize marijuana use with efforts to legalize marijuana for commercial distribution and sale.

The policy statement recommends a balanced response to legalization efforts, offering support for decriminalization and access to treatment, as well as detailing several public health and safety measures that should be instituted by jurisdictions that legalize marijuana to protect vulnerable populations. For example, ASAM’s third recommendation states that jurisdictions that have already legalized marijuana or may act to legalize it “prohibit the legal sale of marijuana products to anyone younger than 25 years of age” and “require rotating warning labels to be placed on all marijuana and marijuana products not approved by the U.S. FDA which are offered for sale in retail outlets, stating, ‘marijuana should not be used by pregnant women or persons under age 25.’” It also includes recommendations to encourage basic and health services research on marijuana and marijuana use, while reaffirming ASAM’s support of our current research-based pharmaceutical development, approval and regulatory process.

As more and more states move to legalize marijuana and other cannabis products for either medicinal or adult recreational use, and as Congress considers bills intended to facilitate research into the potential therapeutic effects of marijuana, ASAM hopes that this set of recommendations will be considered by both state legislatures or ballot initiatives when drafting marijuana legalization bills, as well as state agencies charged with regulating their legal marijuana market.

“Access to quality addiction treatment has always been at the center of ASAM’s mission,” said Dr. Michael Miller. “We hope that states who decide to make an addictive substance legal will take the necessary measures to ensure that those who need treatment for marijuana use disorder or any other substance use disorder are able to receive it.”

Brad Bachman, Advocacy, Policy and Payer Relations Coordinator at the American Society of Addiction Medicine

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    August 15, 2016 at 11:38 AM

    Public safety should be a priority, especially with a drug that has psychoactive effects. However, with the enormous amount of benefits that it provides, it’s also a good that ASAM has lessened it’s thoughts on the restriction of it. Thank you for sharing.

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    November 3, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    The misnomer “medical marihuana” start all the problem. Marihuana (MJ) is not the same as Cannabinoids. Stating that an orange seed is an orange is similar to saying that more than 400 chemichals mixed with more than 60 Cannabinoids is the same as selected concentrations of selected purified cannabinoids. If you burn MJ it produces 20x more ammonia and 5 x more cyanide than equal tobacco quantity plus a lot of irritants tar and cancerogenic toxics. The purified cannabinoids are more safe for all and could not be smoked. If the states make legal only the use of purified cannabinoids (in controlled dosages and combinations specific for ailment and only for patients that had tried approved medicines without success ) the diversion to smoked to adolescents will be minimized and the control of the expetimental use will benefit both the patients and medicine research. The raw and the smoked MJ are toxic and should not be used in medicine nor in research for developing new medicines. That is the conclusion of Institute of Medicine. Preface ix. In Joy JE, Benson JA, Watson SJ, eds., . W ashington, DC: Institute of Medicine1999 “If there is any future for marijuana as a medicine, it lies in its isolated components, the cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives. Isolated cannabinoids will provide more reliable effects than crude plant mixtures. Therefore, the purpose of clinical trials of smoked marijuana would not be to develop marijuana as a licensed drug but rather to serve as a first step toward the development of nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid”

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