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Pediatricians Change Policy, Back Marijuana Reforms

The American Academy of Pediatrics completely revised their official marijuana policy this week.

aaplogoThe subject of young people and cannabis has been a polarized topic during the prohibition era. But evolving criminal laws and changing views by physicians on medical marijuana has promoted a shift among the medical establishment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) represents 62,000 doctors and specialists who treat infants, children and young adults. They also advocate for local and national health legislation. In a groundbreaking move this week the AAP addressed several aspects of marijuana policy. Read full AAP release here

Medical access

Many states are now moving faster to legalize medical cannabis especially for severely ill children suffering seizure disorders. The AAP is calling for the federal government to reclassify cannabis for the entire nation.

The current status of Schedule I in the federal Controlled Substances Act saddles marijuana with a definition of «having no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.» States mirror federal laws by having their own, local CSAs.

Even when medical cannabis is legalized at the state level many physicians are reticent to allow their patients to participate in the programs because of this federal classification. There have been many attempts to get marijuana re-scheduled but all have been ultimately rejected by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The AAP position summary is as follows:

opposes the use of medical marijuana outside the regulatory process of the Food and Drug Administration but recognizes that marijuana may be an option for cannabinoid administration for children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate


Perhaps more profound, the AAP urged pediatricians to «advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana.»

They argue that taking a public health approach rather than a criminal approach is better for teenagers caught with cannabis.

National Public Radio spoke with Dr. Seth Ammerman of Stanford University who wrote the AAP policy paper:

Arresting teens who use pot won’t do them any good, Ammerman says. Hundreds of thousands of adolescents and teens have been incarcerated for marijuana possession, «and the vast majority of marijuana-related arrests are minority youths.» read more

Indeed, arrest reports in urban environments have shown that juveniles of color are arrested at 4 times the rate of their white counterparts. A juvenile arrest for marijuana can also bring problems down the road for adults hoping to gain financial aid for college or even enter military service.

The AAP position summary on this topic is as follows:

strongly supports the decriminalization of marijuana use and encourages pediatricians to advocate for laws that prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana. Additionally, a focus on treatment help for adolescents with marijuana use problems should be encouraged

A new conversation

The policy shift by the AAP will be a great help to local and national reform efforts, although they specifically opposed full legalization.

Parents, doctors and educators across the country are also having to shift their talking points on the topic of marijuana. Now that it is legal in four states and the District of Columbia, decriminalization has happened in many large cities and medical access has arrived for most of the nation the subject is less polarized.

Studies have not shown any dramatic increase in consumption among teenagers in legal states.

Occasional experimentation with marijuana will not be any real physical or mental detriment to the average, healthy American youth. But, just like drinking, no one wants to see young teenagers smoking cannabis every day.

Several hospitals in Colorado urge parents to simply be honest and emphasize the legal age for purchasing marijuana remains 21 years old.