CSAM Members Vote to Ratify “Youth First” Report

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Presentation by Peter Banys, MD and Timmen Cermak, MD at the Addiction Medicine State of the Art 2011 Conference in Long Beach on October 14, 2011.  This presentation is not CSAM public policy or the policy of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.  
 

Over 100 CSAM members registered their opinion in an online survey and many offered valuable comments about the Youth First Report submitted to the membership for a vote by CSAM’s Executive Council, which unanimously accepted the report at its meeting on October 14, 2011. The number of survey responses received was similar to the 106 responses received for a marijuana survey conducted almost two years ago in which 53% supported “legalization of marijuana if profits were taxed to support treatment.”

Through the recent online survey, 80% of the CSAM membership approved of the Youth First Report, 17% disapproved and 3% abstained. 108 total responses were received which represents roughly one-third of CSAM’s total membership.

Upon receiving this clear vote of support from the membership, the CSAM Executive Council sent the report to ASAM’s Board of Directors for presentation at their October 30 board meeting by David Pating, MD (ASAM Region II Director) and Judith Martin, MD (ASAM Director), both members of CSAM’s Executive Council and past presidents.

The ASAM Board supported the following goals contained in CSAM’s Youth First Report as follows:

  • Limit access to marijuana for those under 21
  • Keep youth in school
  • Provide schools with resources to identify and help students using marijuana
  • Construct a community-based evaluation and intervention system to address youth under 18 who are using marijuana
  • Provide treatment to youth who have become dependent on marijuana

ASAM supports CSAM’s perspective that if marijuana should ever be legalized to any extent, sufficient revenue should be sequestered upfront from any taxes and fees generated by the sale of marijuana to fund the following structure and services:

  1. Marijuana Regulatory Structure
  2. Adolescent Education, Marijuana Prevention and Smoking Cessation Public Education
  3. School-Based Early Intervention, Community Youth Commissions and Treatment Systems
  4. Ongoing System of Data Collection and Analysis

However, the ASAM Board of Directors currently considers any legalization of marijuana to be inconsistent with its public policy position as stated in item #9 in its statement of National Drug Policy:  “ASAM opposes any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug. Any changes should be gradual and carefully monitored.”

The sense of the ASAM Board at their meeting on October 30, 2011 was that, while it recognizes that state chapters face significantly different histories and environments regarding marijuana, it remains critical for the Society as a whole to speak with one voice. Multiple public policy statements by ASAM and state chapters must be consistent.

In order to identify common ground and develop a position that is acceptable at both the state and national levels of ASAM, the ASAM Board of Directors has invited CSAM to enter into a dialogue with the purpose of developing language that permits the two entities to remain consistent in their policy statements. The ASAM Board expressed its willingness to explore modifying its own position in a direction that better embodies the public health perspective being pursued by CSAM.

The ASAM Board recognizes that time is of the essence for CSAM to be able to impact the political processes underway in California. Discussions with the ASAM public policy leaders are ongoing.

Trustees of the California Medical Association (CMA), which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, recently adopted a position calling for regulation and taxation of marijuana. The trustees acknowledged the health risk associated with marijuana use, and proposed that it be regulated along the lines of alcohol and tobacco. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge regulation and taxation (i.e., elimination of criminal penalties) of the drug and the position is controversial. The CMA position calls for “earmarking” tax revenue from the sale of cannabis “to reduce cannabis use among children, adolescents, and young adults.” CSAM has requested that the CMA adopt the Youth First Report to more fully address the treatment issues already associated with youth using marijuana.

Last November, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis and permitted local governments to regulate it and tax sales. The CMA took no public position on the measure, nor did CSAM. CSAM noted at the time that Proposition 19 was poorly written and incorrectly stated to the voters that there are no adverse health affects associated with marijuana use. CSAM anticipates there will be other ballot measures as well as legislation in the next session seeking to legalize and regulate marijuana.