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The Question Over Medical Marijuana Essay Research

The Question Over Medical Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

The Question over MedicalIn Nov. 1996 the people of the State of California approved proposition 215, the initiative that could make marijuana legally available as a medicine in the U.S. for the first time in 60 years. Under this initiative the government will not prosecute patients or their caregivers who possess cultivate marijuana for medical treatment. The medical recommendation may be either written or oral and doctors cannot be penalized by the state of Arizona at the same time. However at this time it is still illegal to posses, administer, sell or use marijuana in any of the other 48 states across the U.S. Why haven’t the rest of the country followed the lead of these two states?

What this paper attempts to do is provide a proving argument that it is immoral to deny seriously ill patients the right to use marijuana for medical purposes, and that the current misperceptions about marijuana have been grossly overstated. Basically I’m going to prove the marijuana has been given a bum rap.

Currently there is question as to whither there is a valid use for marijuana for medicinal use. This question has been the spark for much controversy. “There is no evidence to prove marijuana’s use in chemotherapy. There are numerous alternative drugs that obviate the need to even pursue research on the subject.” Our course scientific research would give use a different opinion than the one above that current President Bill Clinton has stated above. Marijuana’s therapeutic uses are well documented in the modern scientific literature. Using either smoked marijuana or oral preparations of delta-9-THC (marijuana’s main active ingredient), researchers have conducted controlled studies. These studies demonstrate marijuana’s usefulness in “reducing nausea and vomiting, ” “stimulating appetite, promoting weight gain, and diminishing intraocular pressure from glaucoma. ” There is also evidence that smoked marijuana and/or THC

“reduce muscle spasticity form spinal chord injuries and multiple sclerosis, and diminish tremors in multiple sclerosis patients. ” Other therapeutic uses for marijuana have not been widely studied. However, patients and physicians have reported that smoked marijuana have not been widely studied. However patients and physicians have reported that smoked marijuana “provides relief from migraine headaches, depression, seizures, insomnia, convulsion, and chronic pain. ”

In the U.S., using marijuana for medical purposes is illegal because federal law includes marijuana in schedule I, a category for drugs deemed unsafe, highly suspect to abuse and possessing no medicinal value. In 1996, voters in California and Arizona went to the polls and in sweeping victories, told Washington that federal drug policies – at least as they applied to sick people – were wrong. Voting on proposition 215, Californian’s

“approved the medical use of Marijuana by a 65 to 35 margin. ” In Arizona a solid majority (65%) voted to give the doctors the right to prescribe a range of drugs, including marijuana, heroin, and LSD. However, federal law prevents states from making marijuana supplies legally available. In effect thousands of “Americans use marijuana as a medicine illegally, putting themselves at risk of arrest and prosecution. ” Unfortunately other who might benefit from marijuana are deterred by its illegality.

Since 1986, synthetic THC (Marinol) has been available as a Schedule II drug, which allows physicians to prescribe it under highly regulated conditions. “It is only recently in July of 1999 that Marinol was moved from Schedule II to a Schedule III drug. ” The change makes it much easier for doctors to distribute the drug and keeps the DEA from looking over their shoulder each time they write a prescription. Marinol is labeled as officially as an anti-nauseate and an appetite stimulant, but doctors can and do prescribe it for other conditions such as depression and muscle spasticity. Even though THC delivered orally by Marinol is available, many patients find that smoked marijuana is more effective. For people suffering from nausea and vomiting, who are unable to swallow and hold down a pill, smoking marijuana has the additional advantage of delivering THC. “For nauseated patients, smoking marijuana has the additional advantage of delivering THC quickly, providing relief in a few minutes, compared to an hour or more when THC is swallowed. ”

Smoking marijuana not only delivers THC to the bloodstream more quickly than swallowing Marinol, but smoking delivers most of the THC inhaled. When Marinol is swallowed, it must move from the stomach to the small intestine before being absorbed into the bloodstream. After absorption, orally consumed THC, orally consumed THC passes immediately through the liver, where a significant proportion is biotransformed into other chemicals. “Due to metabolism by the liver, 90% or more of the swallowed THC never actually even gets a chance to perform its effects on the body. ”

When THC is swallowed its effects vary considerably, both form one person to another and in the same person from one episode of use to another. The major problem with Marinol is that it effects are not consistent in each person who takes it. In other words, smoking marijuana is a more flexible route of administration than swallowing.

“Smoking allows patients to adjust their dose to coincide with the rise and fall of symptoms. ” For people suffering from nausea and vomiting form AIDS or cancer chemotherapy smoked marijuana provides rapid relief with lower overall doses of THC.

Due to the controversy and inconstant effectiveness between patients doctors are very reluctant to prescribe it. Smoking is a highly unusual way to administer a drug. Many drugs could be smoked, but there is no good reason to do so because oral preparations produce adequate blood concentration. With THC this is not the case.

“Inhaling is a better route of administration than swallowing. Inhaling is about equal in efficiency to intravenous injection, and considerably more practical. ” Other than its illegality, the primary drawback of smoking marijuana is that it deposits irritants in the lungs. With prolonged high dose use, this could cause lung problems. However, “with short-term use, there is little risk of lung damage. ” Given the current options smoking marijuana is the most effective and possibly the cheapest way to deliver THC. The cost of Marinol is upwards to $10 per a pill. With the black market tax on Marijuana removed natural marijuana in plant form could be delivered to patients at a fraction of the cost of Marinol.

In the 1970’s the federal government funded research into “marijuana’s therapeutic uses and provided marijuana supplies to qualified researchers. ”

It also established the “compassionate use” program, through which patients, on a case-by-case basis, could obtain marijuana from a government maintained farm. In its 1976 Marijuana and Health reports to Congress, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommended “further exploration of marijuana’s medical uses. ”

Ronald Reagan’s election as president in1980 brought a renewed war on marijuana and an end to the federal governments support for medical marijuana. This anti-marijuana idealism carried on throughout the eighties on into President Bush’s reign as well. “In 1992 the Bush administration shut down the compassionate use program and the Clinton administration, also decided against reinstating it ” “The DEA continues to oppose any legal change that would make marijuana available as a medicine and even opposes further research on the topic” There have been no government-funded studies of marijuana’s medical value in more than a decade.

In1996, the Clinton administration opposed voter initiatives in California and Arizona to legalize marijuana for medical use. After both initiatives passed, “Federal official’s threatened to criminally prosecute physicians or revoke their licenses to prescribe controlled substances simply for recommending smoked marijuana to their patients”

A number of anti-drug organizations argued against legalizing the medical use of marijuana, claiming that any change in the law would send the “Wrong message” to teenagers about marijuana’s dangers. Many medical associations oppose the government’s strict prohibitionist position on medical marijuana. Some of these are the American Public Health Association, the Federation of American Scientists, the Physicians Association for AIDS Care, the Lymphoma Foundation of America, and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, as well as The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In defiance of existing law, people across the country use marijuana for medical purposes. Some do with the knowledge and approval of their physicians. Because the practice is illegal, most patients use marijuana medically without medical supervision. Marijuana’s illegality means that patients cannot be sure of obtaining standardized products that are free of fungal spores a critical problem for AIDS patients who have weakened immune systems. In some cities, cannabis buyer clubs have formed to supply uncontaminated products to patients. However, in most parts of the country patients must relay on criminal markets that deliver marijuana of unknown purity and inconsistent potency. Reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug and creating a legal system for its distribution would guarantee that al patients have access to pure, standardized marijuana.

For new drug approval, the FDA requires “substantial evidence of efficiency based on adequate and well controlled clinical investigations plus evidence of the drugs limited toxicity when used in therapeutic doses.” Smoked marijuana meets this standard. For further proof, the FDA’s prior approval of oral THC is evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness in treating nausea, vomiting, and AIDS related wasting. The few studies that have directly that have compared the two forms of THC delivery show “smoked marijuana to be more effective than oral administration.” Nevertheless, the question is not whether marijuana is better than existing medication. For many medical conditions, there are numerous medications available to the patient, some work better in some patients and some that work better in others. Having the maximum number of medications available allows physicians to deliver the best possible medical care to individual patients.

Politics, not medical science, has stood in the way of marijuana’s approval as a legal medication. In 1982 wrote a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association, stating “Outdated federal prohibition of medical marijuana was corrupting the intent of state laws and depriving thousands of glaucoma and cancer patients of the medical care promised them by their state legislatures, the hysteria…. Over marijuana’s social abuse and bureaucratic interference by the federal government had prevented a factual and balanced assessment of marijuana’s us as a mendicant.” It’s about time we all started listening.


President Bill Clinton, remarks at signing of the Elementary an Secondary Education Act of 1994, Farmington, MA (20 October 1994 York, Sarah., “The Battle for Medical Marijuana” The Nation, v246 n1 p14 (Jan 6, 1997)



Grinspoon, L. and Bakalar, J.B., Marijuana: The Forbidden Medicine, Revised and Expanded Edition, New Haven: Yale University Press (1997)

Morganthau, Tom, “The War over Weed”, Newsweek v129 n5 p20 (Feb. 3 1997)

Ibid., p20

Mcwiliams Peter, “The General’s Loophole”, Playboy v46 n12 p61 (Dec. 1999)

Benson, John., “From Marijuana To Medicine”, Issues in Science and Technology, v15 i3 p27 (Spring 1999)


Grinspoon, Lester., “Prescribing the Forbidden Medicine”, Playboy, v45 n8 p42 (August 1998)

Armentano, Paul., Could The FDA Approve Medical Marijuana?” High Times, n226 p40 (August 1998)



Randall, R.C., Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, Washington, DC: Galen Press p27 (1986)


Drug Reform Coordination

Rist, Curtist., “Weed the People” People Weekly, v46 n17 p75 (Oct. 21 1996)


Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics Act, Section 505

Randall, R.C., Cancer Treatment and Marijuana, Washington, DC: Galen Press (1990)

Gingrich, N., “Legal Status of Marijuana,” Journal of the American Medical Association p247 (1982)


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