Medical Marijuana Essay, Research Paper
Marijuana prohibition applies to everyone, including the sick and dying. Of all the negative consequences of prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medical marijuana to the tens of thousands of seriously ill patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
??? It is clear from available studies and rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is therapeutic in the treatment of a number of serious ailments and is less toxic and costly than many conventional medicines for which it may be substituted.1 Most recently, a federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) determined that, ?Marijuana?s active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting, and other symptoms? including multiple sclerosis.2 In some cases, marijuana appears more effective than the commercially available drugs it replaces.3
??? The best established medical use of smoked marijuana is as an anti-nauseant for cancer chemotherapy. During the 1980s, researchers in six different state-sponsored clinical studies involving nearly 1,000 patients determined smoked marijuana to be an effective anti-emetic.4 For many of these patients, smoked marijuana proved more effective than both conventional prescription anti-nauseants and oral THC (marketed today as the synthetic pill, Marinol).5 Dr. John Benson, Jr., co-principle investigator for the latest NAS report, concluded in March 1997 that ?short term marijuana use appears to be suitable in treating conditions like chemotherapy-induced nausea? for patients who do not respond well to other medications.6 Currently, many oncologists are recommending marijuana to their patients despite its prohibition.7
??? Scientific and anecdotal evidence also suggests that marijuana is a valuable aid in reducing pain and suffering for patients with a variety of other serious ailments. For example, marijuana alleviates the nausea, vomiting, and the loss of appetite experienced by many AIDS patients without accelerating the rate at which HIV positive individuals develop clinical AIDS or other illnesses.8 According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), marijuana ?increase[s] food enjoyment and the number of times individuals eat per day.?9 The most recent NAS report found cannabinoid drugs ?promising for treating wasting syndrome in AIDS patients,?10 and recommended those patients unresponsive to conventional AIDS medications smoke marijuana to combat the wasting syndrome.11
??? An earlier 1982 report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) suggested that marijuana reduces intraocular pressure (IOP) in patients suffering from glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in the United States.12 A follow up 1994 report by the Australian federal government determined that, ?There is reasonable evidence for the potential efficacy of THC in the treatment of glaucoma, especially in cases which have proved resistant to existing anti-glaucoma agents,? and recommended the drug?s use under medically supervised conditions.13
??? Clinical and anecdotal evidence also points to the effectiveness of marijuana as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of a variety of spastic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, epilepsy, and quadriplegia. Animal studies and carefully controlled human studies support marijuana’s ability to suppress convulsions. In November 1998, England?s House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said they were ?convince[d] … that cannabis … certainly does have genuine medical applications … in treating the painful muscle spasms and other symptoms of MS,? and recommended legalizing medical use of the drug.14 The latest NAS report also noted marijuana seems to alleviate muscle spasms associated with MS.15
??? Many patients and older Americans use marijuana therapeutically to control chronic pain. NAS researchers found that, ?The available evidence from both animal and human studies indicates that cannabinoids can produce a significant analgesic effect.?16 Several recent scientific studies performed by researchers at the University of San Francisco and elsewhere demonstrate that compounds in marijuana modulate pain signals in much the same way as morphine and other opiates.17 This new research led the Society of Neuroscience to pronounce that, ?Substances similar to or derived from marijuana, known as cannabinoids, could benefit the more than 97 million Americans who experience some form of pain each year.?18
??? New research indicates that marijuana constituents appear to protect brain cells during a stroke. Researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health called compounds in marijuana potent antioxidants.19 Doctors rely on antioxidants to protect stroke victims from toxic levels of a brain chemical called glutamate. Head trauma and strokes cause the release of excessive glutamate, often resulting in irreversible damage to brain cells. In laboratory studies, marijuana compounds performed better than traditional antioxidants like vitamins C and E.20
??? Between 1978 and 1996, legislatures in 34 states and the District of Columbia passed laws recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic value.21 Twenty-three of these laws remain in effect today.22 Most recently, voters in Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington overwhelmingly adopted initiatives exempting patients who use marijuana under a physician?s supervision from state criminal penalties.23 These states joined voters in Arizona and California who passed similar initiatives recognizing marijuana?s medical value in 1996. 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.
??? Clearly, the American public distinguish between the medical use and recreational use of marijuana, and a majority support legalizing medical use for seriously ill patients.24 A March 26, 1999 Gallup poll reported that seventy three percent of American support making marijuana available to doctors so they may prescribe it.25 Basic compassion and common sense demand that we allow America?s seriously ill citizens to use whatever medication is most safe and effective to alleviate their pain and suffering.
??? NORML first raised this issue in 1972 in an administrative petition asking federal authorities to move marijuana from schedule I to schedule II of the federal Controlled Substances Act so doctors may prescribe it. After 16 years of legal battles and appeals, in 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s own administrative law judge, Francis Young, found: “Marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance in light of the evidence in this record.”26 Young recommended “that the Administrator transfer marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II, to make it available as a legal medicine.”27 The DEA Administrator overruled Judge Young, and the Court of Appeals allowed that decision to stand, denying medical marijuana to seriously ill patients. Congress must act to correct this injustice.
??? Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass) recently reintroduced legislation in Congress to provide for the medical use of marijuana.28 House Bill 912, the “Medical Use of Marijuana Act,” would move marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law, thereby making it legal for physicians to prescribe. The rescheduling would remove cannabis from the list of drugs alleged to have no valid medical use, such as heroin and LSD, and put it in the same category as Marinol, morphine and cocaine.
??? House Bill 912 is not a mandate from Washington and would not require any state to change its current laws. It is a states’ rights bill that acknowledges the will of the American people and would allow states to determine for themselves whether marijuana should be legal for medicinal use. It is a common-sense solution to a complex issue and would provide a great deal of relief from suffering for a large number of people. NORML implores Congress to support this compassionate proposal to protect the ten of thousands of Americans who currently use marijuana as a medicine and the millions who would benefit from its legal access. Many seriously ill patients find marijuana the most effective way to relieve their pain and suffering and federal marijuana prohibition must not, in good conscience, continue to deny them that medication.
1. House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, ?Ninth Report,? London: United Kingdom (1998); American Public Health Association, Resolution 9513: Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis, Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements (1995); Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, The health and psychological consequences of cannabis use, Canberra, Australia: Australian Government Publishing Service (1994): 185-199; Federation of American Scientists, Medical Use of Whole Cannabis, Washington, DC: Statement of the FAS (1994); Lester Grinspoon, M.D. et al., Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine (second edition), New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press (1997); John Morgan, M.D. et al., Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence, New York City: Lindesmith Center (1997): 17-25.
2. Institute of Medicine News, March 17, 1999; National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, Washington, DC: National Academy Press (1999); http://www.norml.org/medical/IOM_Report/iomlv.htm.
3. Lester Grinspoon, M.D., et al., Marihuana, The Forbidden Medicine.
4. R.C. Randall, Cancer Treatment & Marijuana Therapy, Washington, DC: Galen Press (1990): 217-243; Kevin Zeese, Marijuana: Medical Effectiveness Is Proven By Research, Falls Church, Virginia: Common Sense for Drug Policy (1997); ?Annual Report: Evaluation of Marijuana and Tetrahydrocannabinol in Treatment of Nausea and/or Vomiting Associated with Cancer Therapy Unresponsive to Conventional Anti-Emetic Therapy: Efficacy and Toxicity,? Board of Pharmacy, State of Tennessee, (1983); McNeil, Robert P., ?The Lynn Pierson Therapeutic Research Program: A Report on Progress to Date,? Behavioral Health Services Division, Health and Environment Department, State of New Mexico, (1983); ?Seventeenth Annual Report of the Research Advisory Panel,? prepared for the Governor and Legislature by the California Research Advisory Panel, San Francisco, California, (1986); ?Michigan Department of Public Health Marijuana Therapeutic Research Project, Trial A 1980-81,? Department of Social Oncology, Evaluation Unit. Michigan Cancer Foundation, (1982), Kunter, Michael H., ?Evaluation of the Use of Both Marijuana and THC in Cancer Patients for the Relief of Nausea and Vomiting Associated with Cancer Chemotherapy After Failure of Conventional Anti-Emetic Therapy: Efficacy and Toxicity,? as prepared for the Composite State Board of Medical Examiners, Georgia Department of Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia (1983); ?Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature on the Antonio G. Olivieri Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Program,? New York State Department of Health, (1986) as it appeared in Cancer Treatment and Marijuana Therapy, (1990).
5. ?Annual Report: Evaluation of Marijuana and Tetrahydrocannabinol in Treatment of Nausea and/or Vomiting Associated with Cancer Therapy Unresponsive to Conventional Anti-Emetic Therapy: Efficacy and Toxicity,? Board of Pharmacy, State of Tennessee; ?The Lynn Pierson Therapeutic Research Program: A Report on Progress to Date,? Behavioral Health Services Division, Health and Environment Department, State of New Mexico; ?Seventeenth Annual Report of the Research Advisory Panel,? prepared for the Governor and Legislature by the California Research Advisory Panel; Vincent Vinciguerra, et al., ?Inhalation marijuana as an antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy,? New York State Journal of Medicine, (1988): 525-527.
6. Institute of Medicine News, March 17, 1999.
7. Rick Doblin, et al., “Marihuana as Anti-emetic Medicine: A Survey of Oncologists’ Attitudes and Experiences,” Journal of Clinical Oncology, (1991): 1275-80; John Morgan, M.D. et al., Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence, 20.
8. Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, The health and psychological consequences of cannabis use, 195; Richard Kaslow, M.D., et al., “No Evidence for a Role of Alcohol or Other Psychoactive Drugs in Accelerating Immunodeficiency in HIV-1 Positive Individuals,” Journal of The American Medical Association, (1989): 3424-29.
9. National Institues of Health, “Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana, Report to the Director,” Washington, D.C. (1997): 4.
10. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Marijuana as Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, 4.22.
11. Institute of Medicine News, March 17, 1999. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Marijuana and Health, Washington, DC: National Academy Press (1982): 140-151.
12. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Marijuana and Health, Washington, DC: National Academy Press (1982): 140-151.
13. Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health, The health and psychological consequences of cannabis use, 199.
14. House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, “Ninth Report;” Associated Press, November 12, 1998.
15. Institute of Medicine News, March 17, 1999.
16. National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, 4.9.
17. “Synthetic marijuana-like drug eases pain – study,” Reuters News Service, September 23, 1998; “Study Explains How Marijuana Kills Pain,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 24, 1998; “Easing the Agony: Marijuana does more than merely make you stoned,” The New Scientist (United Kingdom), September 26, 1998; “Cannabinoid Anagesia Explained,” The Lancet, September 26, 1998; “How Does Marijuana Kill Pain,” Associated Press, October 4, 1998.
18. Society for Neuroscience, Press Conference: Marijuana & Analgesia, October 26, 1997.
19. A. Hampson, et al., “Cannabidiol and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95 (1998): 8268-8273; “Cannabis is stroke hope,” The Guardian (United Kingdom), July 4, 1998; “Marijuana?s Healing Properties,” Associated Press, July 5, 1998.
21. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia.
22. Alabama (S. 559); Connecticut (H.B. 5217); District of Columbia (Bill No. 4-123); Georgia (H.B. 1077); Iowa (S.F. 487); Illinois (H.B. 2625); Louisiana (H.B. 1187); Massachusetts (H. 2170); Minnesota (H.F. 2476); Montana (H.B. 463); New Hampshire (S.B. 21); New Jersey (A.B. 819); New Mexico (H.B. 329); New York (S.B. 1123-6); Rhode Island (H.B. 79.6072); South Carolina (S.B. 350); Tennessee (H.B. 314); Texas (S.B. 877); Vermont (H.B. 130); Virginia (S.B. 913); Washington (S.B. 6744); West Virginia (S.B. 366); Wisconsin (A.B. 697); http://www.norml.org/medical/states.shtml.
25. ?Americans Oppose General Legalization of Marijuana, but Support Use for Medicinal Purposes,? Gallup Poll News Service, Volume 63, No. 44, March 26, 1999.
26. In the Matter of Marihuana Rescheduling Petition, Docket 86-22, Opinion, Recommended Ruling, Findings of fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decision of Administrative Law Judge, September 6, 1988 (Washington, DC: Drug Enforcement Administration, 1988).