Medical Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
We Need to Change the Laws Regarding Medical Marijuana
Since 1937 marijuana has been illegal in our country for all purposes. From that time many Americans have thought of it as a dangerous drug, and its medicinal value has been disregarded simply because it has been labeled as an illegal substance. Recent studies show that marijuana is indeed safe and has many modern medicinal applications. It is proven to be beneficial in the alleviation of symptoms of AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, and epilepsy only to name a few. I feel that the majority of the public does not know all the facts about the medical use of marijuana. Without substantial public support, marijuana will continue to be prohibited by the government and many patients will continue to not receive necessary treatment.
Perhaps the biggest misconception of marijuana is that it is not safe. On the contrary, marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known. No one has ever died from an overdose, and it has a wide variety of therapeutic uses (4). According to Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, marijuana is one of the least toxic substances in the whole pharmacopoeia (3). It is also one of the most tested therapeutic drugs; historical records show that marijuana was a prescribed drug throughout China since the 2700s B.C. (3). To this day, more is known about the therapeutic uses of marijuana than about most prescription drugs. Marijuana has been tested by millions of people for thousands of years. In all that time, there is not a single reported death caused by consuming marijuana (3). As opposed to the crude methods of smoking the drug, marijuana can be given in the much safer pill form or by an inhaler. This already safe drug can be taken using a pill form or inhaler since it is known that smoking marijuana causes lung damage.
The government used to claim that marijuana kills brain cells. Government experts now admit that pot doesn t kill brain cells. This myth came from a handful of animal experiments in which structural changes (not actual cell death, as is often alleged) were observed in brain cells of animals exposed to high doses of pot. Many critics still cite the notorious monkey studies of Dr. Robert G. Heath, which purported to find brain damage in three monkeys that had been heavily dosed with marijuana. This work was never replicated and has since been discredited by a pair of better controlled, much larger monkey studies, one by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research and the other by Charles Rebert and Gordon Pryor of SRI International. (2) Neither found any evidence of physical alteration in the brains of monkeys exposed to daily doses of pot for up to a year. Human studies of heavy users in Jamaica and Costa Rica found no evidence of abnormalities in brain psychology. Even though there is no evidence that pot causes permanent brain damage, users should be aware that persistent deficits in short-term memory have been noted in chronic, heavy marijuana smokers after six to twelve weeks of abstinence. It is worth noting that other drugs, including alcohol, are known to cause brain damage. A myth is that marijuana leads to harder drugs. There is no scientific evidence for the theory that marijuana is a gateway drug. The pot-using cultures in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America show no tendency for other drugs. The gateway theory took hold in the sixties, when marijuana became the leading new recreational drug. It was refuted by events in the eighties, when cocaine abuse exploded at the time marijuana use declined. There is evidence that marijuana may substitute for alcohol and other hard drugs. A recent survey by Dr. Patricia Morgan of the University of California at Berkeley found that a significant number of pot smokers and dealers switched to Meta Amphetamine ice when Hawaii s marijuana eradication program created a shortage of pot. (2) The one way in which marijuana does lead to other drugs is through its illegality; people who deal in marijuana are likely to deal in other illicit drugs as well. Another myth is that marijuana causes birth defects. While experts generally recommend against any drug use during pregnancy, marijuana has little evidence implicating it in fetal harm, unlike alcohol, cocaine, or tobacco. Studies have found no evident link between prenatal use of marijuana and birth defects in humans. A study of Jamaican women who had smoked pot throughout pregnancy found that their babies registered higher on developmental scores at the age of thirty days, while experiencing no significant effects on birth weight or length. (2) While marijuana use is not recommended in pregnancy, it may be of medical value to some women in treating morning sickness or easing childbirth.
Throughout its long medicinal history, marijuana has established a wide variety of therapeutic applications. Most recently, it has been used to treat some AIDS patients. It can reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by the virus itself and other drugs (4). Marijuana also reduces pressure within the eye and thereby alleviates the pain and slows sometimes stops the progress of glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in the United States (3). Marijuana treats epilepsy and has been known to prevent epileptic seizures in many patients. It is considered to be the best medication for many types of epilepsy and for most victims post-seizure trauma (1). In addition, marijuana alleviates nausea and pain associated with cancer chemotherapy treatments. Research has shown that marijuana has also been proven to relieve migraine headaches, control plasticity of multiple sclerosis, and help emphysema patients breathe easier. (1). All of the scientifically proven treatments that I have just discussed will have no incorporation in medicine until steps are made for its long overdue legalization.
Even with marijuana s broad medicinal uses, the federal government has stood in the way of many states that wanted to use it in research. When the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed, the government thought of marijuana only as a dangerous and addictive narcotic ignoring its pharmaceutical value. Since then many states have questioned the drugs medicinal attributes. Although the federal government has issued the overriding prohibition of marijuana, the states have held the right to remove criminal penalties for medicinal marijuana. In the last twenty years, ten states, including California and New York, have removed criminal penalties for possession of personal use amounts (4). Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, and California overwhelmingly adopted initiatives exempting patients who use marijuana under a physician s supervision from state criminal penalties. These laws do not legalize marijuana or alter criminal penalties regarding the possession or cultivation of marijuana for recreational use. Nor do they establish a legal supply for patients to obtain the drug. They merely provide a narrow exemption from prosecution for defined patients who use marijuana with their doctor s recommendation (5). State legislatures have the authority and moral responsibility to change the state law to exempt patients with a doctor s recommendation from prosecution for possession and cultivation. In addition, they have the power to exempt doctors who recommend medicinal marijuana from prosecution. However, state governments that want to make marijuana medically available have been halted by the federal government s prevailing prohibition. Even California s Proposition 215 cannot keep patients and doctors free from federal prosecution. In the meantime, patients continue to suffer. Congress has the power and moral responsibility to implement a more humane policy that would allow all fifty states to determine their own policies with regard to allowing or prohibiting the medical use of marijuana. Currently, some patients suffering from AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, epilepsy, and other illnesses are either not receiving the medical marijuana they need or are risking punishment by obtaining it illegally. Marijuana has been proven to be a very safe, non-toxic therapeutic drug; there is no reason for it to be illegal for the treatment of these patients.
Before opponents of medical marijuana can make their own decision on the matter of allowing the drugs use as medicine, they must remember that this movement for legalization for medical purposes by no means assumes its legalization for recreational use. Medical marijuana laws would be regulated and doses would be controlled. Marijuana is too far useful to be excluded from available pharmaceuticals. I would hate to see its high medicinal potential be overlooked only because of legal matters.
1. Americans For Medical Rights. 21 States Have Authorized Medical Marijuana Studies, But Only Six Implemented Programs. 3 Feb. 2000. http://medmjscience.org/Pages/science/fact1.html
This is a short article telling which states have implemented programs for medicinal marijuana.
2. Gieringer, Dale Ph.D. Marijuana Health Myths. 3 Feb. 2000. http://www.norml.org/canorml/myths.shtml
This Coordinator of California NORML disputes myths about marijuana.
3. Institute of Medical Marijuana. Marijuana Is Medicine. 3 Feb. 2000. http://medicalmarijuana.org/engflyer.htm
This is an article showing how marijuana can be used beneficially in medicine.
4. Marijuana Policy Project. Medical Marijuana Briefing Paper- 2000: The Need to Change State and Federal Laws. 3 Feb. 2000. http://www.mpp.org/medicine.html
This is a briefing paper about marijuana, explaining the medicinal value, background, the struggle in court, and others.
5. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Still Crazy After All These Years. 3 Feb. 2000. http://www.natlnorml.org/facts/index
This is a report on the history of marijuana.