President’s Symposium to Address Marijuana Legalization

The polarizing topic of marijuana legalization and the reaction of the addiction medicine community to more states and communities considering less strict marijuana laws will be examined Friday in the President’s Symposium, “Marijuana: Patient to Policy.”

The session will feature four speakers with experience in addiction treatment and policy discussing the potential impact of anticipated changes in marijuana legislation and treatment on clinical practice and patient outcomes. In light of the great interest in the topic, the President’s Symposium will be presented twice — from 10:30 am to noon and from 4 to 5:30 pm, both in Governor’s Ballroom A-C, on the Fourth Floor.

Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA

Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA

“The country has been pushing hard to have a third legal psychoactive substance available,” said ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA. “We have a drug that has no proven benefit whatsoever for medicinal purposes or for any other type of use. It is full of risks and harmful outcomes.

“We recognize there may be some components of the marijuana plant that have some medicinal applications, and we are all for research for that. But we don’t see any reason the country needs higher morbidity and mortality in return for nothing. This is our chance to hear from the leaders of the groups that are responsible in many ways for seeking some reason as opposed to the ridiculousness that we have been confronting over the past few years.”

Speaking at the sessions will be:

  • Wilson M. Compton, MD, MPE, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Kevin Sabet, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida and President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana
  • Kevin M. Gray, MD, Associate Professor at the Medical University of South Carolina
  • Patrick J. Kennedy, Former U.S. Representative and Founder of the Kennedy Forum

ASAM, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have all taken positions against, and Dr. Gitlow questioned the potential effect of restrictions to go along with legalization.

“We already have plenty of restrictions in terms of availability of cigarettes to young people. Those restrictions have never done anything in terms of really stopping the flow,” he said. “But the prohibition type of approach worked well for alcohol. What we are seeing is significant upticks of use among young people where legalization is present, even with the restrictions.

“We want to make sure all of our members are familiar with those issues and have an understanding of what the experiment in the Western states has demonstrated.”