Doctors Vs Government : The War On Legalizing Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
In recent years, debates over whether the government should legalize the drug marijuana, and the resulting drug war, have made headlines nationwide. The idea that doctors and researchers have been persevering to prove is that marijuana has medical uses for patients with certain diseases and disorders. But the government has their eyes closed to the facts. Doctors and scientists who have studied marijuana agree that it does have some medical benefits, and some feel the government is so busy fighting the “War on Drugs” that it does not see them. Doctors and researchersa and the government have conflicting ideas about marijuana, but there is some agreement on some aspects of this “war.”
Marijuana is one of the oldest and most researched psychoactive drugs known to humanity. As stated by Lester Grinspoon, M.D., a medical doctor and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, “…[Marijuana] was certainly cultivated in China by 4000 B.C. and in Turkestan by 3000 B.C. …” (Grinspoon 3). For thousands of years prior to its prohibition in the twentieth century, cannabis (another name for marijuana) was used as a medicine throughout the world. Until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed,”…marijuana, being a powerful topical analgesic, muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmodic agent, was found in virtually all ” ointments and relaxers (Goddard 1-2). The United States Pharmacopeia recommended marijuana for over one hundred illnesses including asthma, fatigue, fits of coughing, migraine headaches, and cramps and depression associated with menstruation (Goddard 2). This lasted up until 1942 when it ceased to be listed due to increasing political pressure.
Not only does marijuana have its medical values, it also has its industrial uses. Some people say marijuana should be legalized for the sick who can benefit from its usage; for the farmers who need cash; for the tax revenues it could bring in; and for the environmental and industrial benefits it possesses (Wickman). In the past, hemp (another form of marijuana, which is legal) had been used to make ropes, clothing, paper, canvas, and many other materials. This would mean many of the fears the world has today about trees and the environment would be extinguished. Thomas J. Bouril, the author of an internet site entitled “Marijuana and Hemp: The Untold Story”, believes that, “…it is possible that the real reason marijuana was banned was to prevent hemp from ever becoming a major natural resource,” (1).
Marijuana has over four hundred chemicals. Many of these chemicals are the same as those in regular cigarettes, but marijuana is more potent. The main psychoactive and mind altering chemical is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short (For 1). This chemical produces the side effects which include dry mouth, rapid heart beat, and a feeling of being ‘high’. In adults, physical effects of marijuana use include feelings of euphoria or relaxation; increase in heart and pulse rate; reddening of eyes; dryness in mouth and throat; and a mild decrease in body temperature. Occasionally there is an increase in appetite. (For 2). “Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications,” (”Week” 3). Some users claim that it enhances hearing, vision, skin sensitivity, but no one has proven these claims yet. Marijuana has also been shown to impair short-term memory temporarily, alter sense of time, and reduce the ability to perform tasks requiring concentration, swift reactions and coordination.
Using marijuana not only has physical effects, but also its mental ones. People suffering from depression or other emotional disturbances who use marijuana to treat symptoms often cause a worsening of the problem. Many people who use marijuana report it causing disruption in their lives (For 2). Marijuana use has been known to tear apart families and friendships.
The root of the problem is in the chemicals of the marijuana plant. These same chemicals are in regular cigarettes, but cigarettes do not cause these types of problems. It would seem that this would be an open-and-shut case, where it is common sense not to allow marijuana use at all. But given the history of marijuana, all the research, facts, and information available right now, this is not the open-and-shut case it should be.
The United States Government has many reasons for not wanting to legalize marijuana. One of the main issues is that marijuana use leads to the use of harder drugs. This is just one of the many myths of marijuana. However, there is no scientific evidence for the theory that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug. The cultures in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America which use cannabis show no propensity for other drugs. The government made the ‘gateway’ theory in the sixties, when marijuana became the leading new recreational drug. Although there is no evidence that marijuana is a gateway drug, there is evidence that cannabis may substitute for alcohol and other ‘hard’ drugs. The one way in which marijuana does lead to other drugs is through its illegality; persons who deal in marijuana are likely to deal in other illicit drugs as well (Gieringer).
Another issue the government debates is that there would be more traffic fatalities. “Observing the carnage caused by drunk drivers, opponents of drug legalization worry that making marijuana easier to obtain would multiply the number of traffic fatalities,” (Sullum). In a study that examined almost two thousand traffic accidents in seven states, the conclusion was that, “There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes,” (Sullum). This study also stated, “But given the evidence that people use alcohol less when they use pot more… marijuana legalization could also mean fewer drunk drivers,” (Sullum).
The other fear the government has is that marijuana increases agressiveness. Marijuana has been shown to delay a person’s response time to sights and sounds. For example, it would take a driver longer to react to a dangerous situation. The ability to perform sequential tasks can also be affected. The biggest driving problems for marijuana users occur when faced with unexpected events. These events can include a car approaching from a side street or a child running out between parked cars. The greater the demand of a driving situation, the less able the user will be to cope. However, a driver under the influence of marijuana is not likely to lose control of the car because marijuana does not increase aggressiveness like alcohol does (For 4).
Scientists and the government both have their feelings about the side effects of marijuana, especially on children. Scientists believe that a pregnant woman using marijuana is more likely to miscarry or have a still born child. If the child is born alive, birth defects often occur (For 5). Marijuana use also affects a growing child. It can interfere with growing up. “As research shows, the effects of marijuana interfere with learning by impairing thinking, reading comprehension, and verbal and arithmetic skills,” (For 2). However, if their is any evidence to prove this, it could not be found.
Along with the risks during pregnancy, there are some for a growing child. Some scientists believe the drug may interfere with the development of adequate social skills, and may encourage a kind of psychological escapism. “Young people need to learn how to make decisions, to handle success, to cope with failure, and to form their own beliefs and values. By providing an escape from ‘growing pains’, drugs can prevent young people from learning to become mature, independent, and responsible,” (For 2). But, there is little evidence to prove this.
The government uses children as an excuse not to legalize marijuana; they may get the message that marijuana is safe for anyone to use. On the other hand, the government’s fears are backed by a national survey done in 1977. It was broken down into age groups. One of the age groups was the twelve to seventeen year olds. The survey showed that fifty-nine percent of high school seniors had tired marijuana, and one out of nine was a daily user; eight percent of the twelve and thirteen year olds reported that they had smoked marijuana at least once, and half of them were current users; twenty nine percent of the fourteen and fifteen year olds had tired it, and fifteen percent were still using it. Although no children under twelve years old were surveyed, many of the twelve to seventeen year olds reported that they first tried marijuana, and sometimes started smoking it regularly, while they were still in grade school (For 3).
Marijuana is also shown to delay a person’s response time to sights and sounds.For example, it would take a driver longer to react to a dangerous situation. The ability to perform sequential tasks can also be affected. The biggest driving problems for marijuana users occur when faced with unexpected events. These events can include a car approaching from a side street or a child running out between parked cars. The greater the demand of a driving situation, the less able the user will be to cope. A driver under the influence of marijuana is not likely to lose control of the car because marijuana does not increase aggressiveness like alcohol does (For 4).
In addition to the fears of children being affected by marijuana, the government feels there are no accepted medical uses for it. However, during the twentieth century marijuana has been discovered to be an effective treatment for many other ailments. For example, Dr. Van Sim concluded, based on major research, that “marijuana…is probably the most potent anti-epileptic known to medicine today,” (Goddard 3). More powerful than standard epileptic drugs, marijuana completely eliminated epileptic seizures in children who were not responding to therapies using legal drugs (Goddard 3). Marijuana can also be used with glaucoma patients. Dr. Robert Hepler of UCLA published a major study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1971 demonstrating that marijuana lowers intraocular pressures in the eyes. Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, is a condition in which the pressures build up causing optical damage. Marijuana has been proven to relieve these pressures far better than any legal drug, allowing glaucoma patients to keep their eyesight so long as they use marijuana regularly (Goddard 3-4). Even the Drug Enforcement Administration believes marijuana is safe. In 1988, after reviewing all the evidence presented in a lawsuit against the government’s prohibition of medical marijuana, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) administrative law judge, Francis Young, wrote,
The evidence in this record clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the Drug Enforcement Administration to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence…Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known. In strict medical terms, marijuana is safer than many foods we commonly consume (Bouril 3).
However, the DEA rejected this recommendation.
It is conclusive that the government and doctors and researchers have their differences in opinion. However, they both have their similarities. While the government is too busy turning a blind eye to the facts, the researchers are not listening to the reasons the government gives for not legalizing marijuana. Once everyone can agree, there will be progress to make marijuana legal for medical purposes. However, this means that the government will have to admit that it was wrong, and that will not be happening anytime in the near future. So until then, those people suffering with the illnesses discussed which marijuana can treat, they will keep waiting, hoping to get their chance to live a full and healthy life.
Bouril, Thomas. “Marijuana and Hemp: The Untold Story”. Online. Internet. http://www. geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/1043/facts.html. November 29, 1999.
For Parents Only: What You Need to Know About Marijuana. Reprinted in Drugs 3. Article No. 2.
Gieringer, Dale Ph.D. “Marijuana Health Mythology”. Online. Internet. http://www.druglibrary. org/schaffer/hemp/general/gier.htm#myth18. November 29, 1999.
Grinspoon, Lester M.D. and James B. Bakalar. Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.
Sullum, Jacob. “Pot Luck: Marijuana and Driver Fatalities”. Volume 26. Reason. July 1, 1994:16. EBSCO. Online. Internet. October 27, 1999.
“Week Online with DRCNet”. Issue #84. March 26, 1999. Online. Internet. http://www. drcnet.org. October 24, 1999.
Wikman, Eric. “Should Marijuana Be Legal? (March 1999)”. Online. Internet. http://www. ericwikman.com/marijuana/articles/031999.html. Online. Internet. October 19, 1999.