Groundbreaking marijuana policy spearheaded by UW student
Marijuana has long been classified as a dangerous drug with no medical
benefits. But thanks in part to the work of a University of Washington
medical student, a major medical association this week urged the
government to reconsider.
"It's a huge shift on medical ideology," said Sunil Aggarwal, who's
studying the medical uses of marijuana for 10 years. "It's something
been dreaming of since I was an undergraduate and found out that
wasn't a horribly dangerous thing."
Since 1997, the American Medical Association has taken a hard line
the drug, endorsing its classification as a Schedule 1 controlled
-- the most restrictive category -- and asserting its lack of medical
Aggarwal's research, published in his dissertation and in two articles
the Journal of Opioid Management -- helped convince AMA members that
drug has potential.
At its annual meeting Tuesday, the country's largest physicians'
organization adopted a policy that urges the federal government to
reclassify, or "reschedule," the drug.
And cannabis activists cheered.
"It's like part of the Berlin Wall coming down," said Vivian McPeak,
of Seattle Hempfest -- the largest pot rally in the nation -- and one
400,000 people nationwide authorized to use medical marijuana.
"For the longest time, those of us working for medical marijuana have
hearing this argument that none of the medical organizations or
establishments have supported medical marijuana. With the AMA now
pretty much an about face, who's going to be able to say that?"
Aggarwal's path to the 250,000-member organization began last spring,
the UW chapter of the medical student section of the AMA endorsed his
resolution to reschedule the drug. After he got it through a national
meeting of the student section that June, he presented the idea and
research to the AMA's 2008 annual meeting, where the organization
study the issue for a year.
Aggarwal served as expert reviewer of the groundbreaking report
His only complaint? The AMA should have gone farther.
The report drafted by the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health
for a "review" of marijuana's classification but neither demands the
government reschedule the drug nor emphasizes the need Aggarwal
hundreds of thousands of patients have for the drug's medicinal
"I tried as best as I could to make the language stronger than it was,
that was as far as it was going," Aggarwal said. "But I realized that
at that level, it would still be a big shift."
And not just for the medical community. Speaking at Hempfest last
Aggarwal urged the crowd not to feel like criminals.
"We have to change the way people think about people and cannabis," he
the crowd. "This is a staple of the earth and a basic medicine for a
The government hasn't shown any sign of following the AMA's suggestion
yet, though it's hardly the first organization to call for change.
year, the American College of Physicians also urged the government to
Aggarwal, who expects to stay in what he calls the now "exploding"
cannabinoid science after he graduates in June, is sure change is
"I'm pretty happy," he said. "This Schedule 1 thing is going to be a
of the past."