TUCSON, Ariz --- As pharmacists and drug regulators from across the country convene in Tucson this week for their Winter symposium, they will be discussing medical marijuana, an issue which is headlining the agenda.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) opens its symposium on Thursday with several presentations on medical marijuana by an array of speakers and experts, including Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest advocacy organization focused on the issue.
"We welcome the interest in medical marijuana by the Boards of Pharmacy and want to work with them to address this public health issue," said Woodson. "State Boards of Pharmacy can have an impact on medical marijuana and we want to work with them to adopt sensible policies." The Oregon Board of Pharmacy has been ordered to remove marijuana from its state list of Schedule I drugs, per legislation signed by Governor Kulongoski in August. In addition, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy is currently considering rescheduling marijuana as a result of litigation.
Woodson will co-present on a panel Thursday morning with Barry D. Dickinson, the Director of Science & Biotechnology for the American Medical Association, and Alice Mead, the Director of U.S. Public Relations for GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K. company conducting clinical trials for a medical marijuana extract. The panel is entitled, "Should Marijuana be a Medical Option?" Later, Woodson will take part in a point-counterpoint on medical marijuana with Dickinson, Mead and other experts, including Andrea Barthwell, former deputy director for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and other marijuana researchers.
The NABP symposium will be attended by Boards of Pharmacy executive officers, members, and other state and federal regulators as well as stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry. Both the California Attorney General’s office and the California Department of Public Health are sending representatives to the symposium. Attendees will be able to earn continuing pharmacy education credit for their participation in medical marijuana panels.
The mission of the NABP is to assist its member boards in developing, implementing, and enforcing uniform standards for the purpose of protecting the public health. The State Boards of Pharmacy oversee the classification of controlled substances, such as marijuana, at the state level, similar to the way that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) oversee the federal classification of controlled substances. While state controlled substance lists routinely match the federal list, the State Boards of Pharmacy can change the classification of particular drugs independent of the federal government.
The NABP symposium follows a report on medical marijuana issued last month by the American Medical Association, in which the oldest and largest physician-based group in the U.S. urged the federal government to review the Schedule I status for marijuana. The AMA noted that marijuana appeared to be efficacious for several health conditions and said that further research was needed to assess whether marijuana should continue to be considered a dangerous drug with no medical value.