Annas Puts Perspective on Pot

Posted on: August 7, 2014 Topics: ethics & human rights, health law

Medical marijuana use should be viewed as a medical and public health issue, not a criminal one, and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration is going too far by intimidating Massachusetts physicians involved in medical-marijuana dispensaries, BUSPH Professor George Annas argues in the New England Journal of Medicine.

medical-marijuana-lawAnnas, professor and chair of health law, bioethics and human rights, says in a “Perspective” article that changes in state laws making marijuana accessible to sick people signal a “tipping point”: The legalization trend “will inevitably lead to changes in enforcement of federal law, even if Congress does not directly change federal marijuana laws.”

Against this larger backdrop, Annas sees the actions of the DEA as misguided, citing reports that the agency has visited at least seven Massachusetts physicians to tell them they would have to sever ties with proposed dispensaries or risk losing their licenses to prescribe potent medications.

“I believe that in doing so, it is going too far. Unless a physician seeks to be paid by the dispensary on the basis of sales or volume, it’s difficult to see how acting as a medical officer or member of a dispensary’s board could constitute drug dealing.”

Annas predicts that supporters of medical marijuana will be joined by progressive lawmakers, states’ rights proponents, and libertarians in a movement to protect physicians who follow their states’ medical marijuana laws from “overbearing and intimidating actions against them by the DEA.”


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