MARIJUANA, BIAS-FREE RESEARCH Essay, Research Paper
April 28, 1999
MARIJUANA, BIAS-FREE RESEARCH
Marijuana or marihuana (either spelling is correct) has been cultivated since antiquity and until lately it has grown less for mind-altering use than for industrial, medicinal, and other purposes. Possessing scores of varieties, it is produced and used in a widely varying climes and cultures throughout the world. “Marijuana is not a simple drug but a mixture of at least 426 compounds including at least 62 cannabioids” (Jones,3). Few of these compounds have been studied for their bodily actions nor for interactions with other compounds in the drug. The complexity of its chemistry limited the study of marijuana until late 1960th when the marijuana explosion paved the way for increase in research. Many researchers already formed an opinion about marijuana before they even started the experiments. As a result they found what they expected to find. Some studies, especially early ones tended to link marijuana to many things, including violence to birth defects. In general while readable works on marijuana are unscientific, the scientific works are unreadable. Some of the world’s worst writing can be found between the covers of scholarly tomes. Books that are clear and enjoyable enough for the average reader to read contain little factual and detailed information. In addition to everything, much of the research done either showed little difference between smokers and non-smokers or was done without using such scientific research necessities such as control group or large sample. In general the results of the experiments were those that support the sociological perspective on the use of the drug adopted by a researcher. “After more than 60 years of research whether or not moderate marijuana use is harmful is still debatable and largely unknown.” (Akers, 37).
Comparing studies done on marijuana is very difficult. The researchers study different compounds of marijuana drug and marijuana plant using different techniques and with different purposes in mind. The variability of the material presented researchers with some difficulties. For example, study on pieces of plant produces different results than the study on marijuana ready to use. Observing the effects of marijuana smoke or capsule does not indicate what long term effects will be. Smoking and ingestion may produce different results. This attribute to a lack of agreement between scientists on what marijuana can and cannot do, what kind of results it produces and even if the drug is dangerous or not.
No agreement exists even on classification of the drug. It has been classified as a stimulant, a depressant, and as a hallucinogen. Stimulant and depressant are mutually exclusive, drug cannot stimulate and depress in the same time.
Marijuana has meant so many things to so many people over the years that it is hard to describe it from a single perspective. Researchers, users, and politicians behaved like that famous committee of blind man examining an elephant: the way one describes it depend on were one stands. Even the manner of classifying marijuana among other psychoactive drugs is complex and controversial. Marijuana can produce some sedative-like effects, some pain relief, and, in large doses, hallucinogenic effects. Many of its users call it a depressant, but it is often included among descriptions of hallucinogenic plants. For various pharmacological as well as political reasons marijuana has been called a narcotic, however effects it produces are sufficiently different from those of other psychoactive drugs. According to research marijuana stands as a unique substance which cannot be put in any existing category without neglecting some of its features.
Marijuana is a product derived from leaves of Cannabis plant. People are still debating whether or not Cannabis has one or many species. These debates have legal ground under them. In order to control marijuana, it has first to be defined. Some researchers suggest that there are three species of
Cannabis sativa originated in Asia but now grows worldwide and primarily has been
used for its fibers, from which the rope is made. This is the species that grows
as weed in US and Canada. Cannabis indica is
grown for its psychoactive resins and is cultivated in many
areas of the world… The third species, Cannabis ruderalis,
grows primarily in Russia and not at all in America.(Oakley, 402)
The primary psychoactive agent concentrated in the resin of the plant and most of the resin is in the flowering tops, less in leaves and in the fibrous
stalks. Therefore the effect of the drug varies depending on which part of the plant is used. Marijuana scare of the 30th and later 60th showed that effects of the drug also depends of whoever does the research on it. The hunters for marijuana related disorders searched through all major systems
of human body trying to prove that marijuana is harmful.
Scientists tested effects of marijuana on performance, cardiovascular system, brain, mental health, lungs, and potence. The results were controversial. Everyone found clear evidence to support their theories, but the fact that many people had different theories made the main question
unanswered. Are there any harmful effects of marijuana and what they are. Here is how
researchers put it:
Except for brain studies, in which the
drug seems to have no effect at all,
and the studies on pulmonary functioning,
where marijuana effect is fairly
clear-cut, for all other organs and
functions of the body the have been
studied, marijuana’s effect seems to be
fairly weak. With a weak effect some
studies will produce positive results and
some will turn up negative ones –
especially if different measures have
been used.” (Goode, 152)
Despite the lack of scientific knowledge researchers and scientists were quick to claim that “chronic marijuana use irreversibly damages the brain, lowers bodily resistance to cancer and infection, raises the risk of genetic defects and hereditary diseases, leads to sterility and impotence in men, causes lung cancer, and has several others deleterious effects on health” (Akers, 74). Such statements are usually followed by a note stating that ” most of the extreme indictments of marijuana still have not been supported as a common occurrences” (Akers, 17). Of course when it comes to drugs phrase “innocent until proven guilty” cannot hold, but scientists should prove what they are saying or they become preachers. Articles in medical journals usually written in a dry fashion, devoid of soul. Politicians too write in a hard to understand manner. This makes difficult for average person to obtain scientifically correct information and the reader has to turn to the more
readable material. Not many people are able to perceive what one scientist or doctor is saying to another.
Kenneth C. Copeland, M.D., and two other
physicians postulated that “this patient’s
unusually heavy marijuana usage inhibited
luteinizing hormone secretion, resulting
in diminished testerone production. His
pubertal arrest also may gave been aggravated
by a direct inhibitory effect on marijuana on
the testes. (Copeland, 1)
This kind of language had much contribution on the marijuana’s reputation as a bad drug. No many people are able to understand that what happened to one patient in not necessarily what is going to happen to all marijuana smokers. People just see scary words and phrases like “pubertal arrest” and “luteinized hormone secretion”. In addition to this most of the people are not “unusually heavy” marijuana smokers. So basically the statement of Mr. Copeland gives no information about what effect of marijuana might be to most of the people. But his example might scare some people into thinking that marijuana is a very dangerous drug and will harm one’s reproductive
Marijuana plays and important role in American society. Marijuana is going back to fashion. After peaking in 1978-1979 the number of marijuana smokers dropped but it rebounded in the 1997 (Trebach AS). Although marijuana is not used by most of the Americans, it is still remarkable how many young
people have used and continue to use it. Sociologists explain the growing marijuana use as a form of protest. Marijuana researchers too played their part in it. They told the nation that marijuana is a very dangerous drug that is going to harm people in many different ways. But “marijuana more than anything else, convinced young people that government has been lying to them about drugs. They had been told that marijuana would make them insane, enslave them in drug addiction, and lead to violence and perverted sexual acts. Their experience told them that marijuana was pretty innocuous compared with those stories” (Anderson, 8). And so marijuana became an important symbol that struck a blow for truth and freedom.
Cannabis has a rich history relating both to its medical use and to its recreational uses. Becoming famous as the “Assassin of Youth” it was outlawed. Although strong behavioral dependence is not common, it does occur in some individuals. The drug is not completely innocent, most researchers agree that chronic smoking of marijuana impairs lung function and probably increases the risk of lung cancer. Long standing concerns about brain damage have received some limited support from animal studies. The main factor of “marijuana danger” is in a way researchers present marijuana. Without sufficient prove they attribute to it many health and social disorders. Books written on marijuana are hard to read and often carry much misinformation. On the whole the matter is still under research and no strait answer could be given whether or not marijuana is a harmful drug.
Akers, Ronald L. Drugs, Alcohol, and Society. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1992.
Anderson P. The Pot Lobby, New York Times Magazine Jan 21, 1973.
Copeland Kenneth, Louis E. Underwood, and Judson J. Van Wyk, Marijuana Smoking and Pubertal Arrest, Journal of Pediatrics, v. 96, June, 1980
Goode Erich. Drugs in American Society. 3rd edition. New York. Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
Okley Ray, Ksir Charles. Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior. 8th edition. New York. McGraw-Hill, 1998
Jones Helen C. and Paul W. Lovinger. The Marijuana Question. New York. Dodd, Mead & Company, 1985.
Johnston LD and others. University of Michigan Press Release on National High School Senior Survay. Dec 18, 1997.