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You'd normally be hard-pressed to find any doctor who would support patients' use of an illegal drug. But one of the nation's largest physicians groups now not only has come out publicly in support of medicinal marijuana use but also is calling on the federal government to reconsider its restrictive marijuana laws. The American College of Physicians, which boasts nearly 125,000 members, issued a policy statement in February in support of medicinal marijuana use to reverse severe weight loss associated with wasting syndrome and treat nausea associated with medication side effects among HIVers as well as treat nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy in cancer patients. The organization also urged the Drug Enforcement Administration to ease its restrictions on medicinal marijuana research and to reevaluate the drug's classification as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which puts it alongside such hard drugs as heroin and LSD. 'Additional research is needed to clarify marijuana's therapeutic properties and determine standard and optimal doses and routes of delivery,' the group said in its statement. 'Unfortunately, research expansion has been hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research-grade marijuana, and the debate over legalization.' Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Reuters, 'This statement by America's second-largest doctors group demolishes the myth that the medical community doesn't support medical marijuana. The ACP's statement smashes a number of other myths, including the claims that adequate substitutes are available or that marijuana is unsafe for medical use.' The physicians group also advocated for exemptions from criminal prosecution or other negative actions for doctors who prescribe or dispense marijuana for medicinal purposes in accordance with various state laws. And it pushed for protections from criminal penalties for patients who use medicinal marijuana as permitted by their state laws. Currently, 12 states have laws allowing for the use of medicinal marijuana, but the federal government'backed by a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court in 2001'considers growing, distributing, and using pot to be criminal acts. In a move unusual for a Republican presidential adviser, David Murray, the White House office of National Drug Control Policy's chief scientist, essentially supported the American College of Physicians statement by saying, 'The science should be kept open. There should be more research. We should continue to investigate.'

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