Medicinal Marijuana: A Wonder Drug Or Danger To Society? Essay, Research Paper
Cannabis sativa, most commonly known as marijuana, has been used for recreational and
medical purposes for thousands of years. Many have smoked marijuana to experience the
drug’s psychedelic effects, while others use the drug to treat various illnesses and pain.
Within the past century, however, the drug’s medicinal value has come under much
scrutiny. Those supporting the legalization of marijuana feel that the government has
withheld a soothing drug from those who are suffering from severe illnesses, and as a
result, these advocates find the government to be uncompassionate to those in pain.
Nevertheless, those against the legalization of this drug contest that marijuana has
considerable side effects and offers no medicinal benefits to society. These opponents
encourage the government’s political involvement in the controversy because they feel
that, with government funded experiments, the drug can be proven ineffective and unsafe.
The best option for today’s society, however, is to continue the ban of medicinal
marijuana. The legalization of this drug for medical purposes can only lead to future drug
addiction, negative side effects, and susceptibility to further damage through recreational
Essayist Sally Satel suggests that instead of legalizing marijuana, or any
other drug, that the best answer is force. She gives a well known example of celebrities
and drug use, most recently, the legal problems of Robert Downey Jr. The judge who
sentenced him to six months in prison stated, “I’m going to incarcerate you in a way you
won’t like, but it may save your life” (Satel, “For Addicts, Force Is the Best Medicine”,
101). Satel, a psychiatrist who treats drug addicts, feels that by keeping them in
treatment, the legal consent – whether it is forced or not – may in fact keep the addicts
alive (101). She convinced that the payoff is colossal. These addicts learn the “social
competence, trust in others and optimism about the future that are the prerequisites for a
life without drugs” (103). Not only do the patients themselves have a positive effect from
the treatment, but the community sees results as well. “Numerous large-scale cost-benefit
analyses reveal that every dollar spent on drug treatment saves between $2 and $7 on law
enforcement, corrections, health care, lost productivity, and welfare” (103). With this in
mind, it is far more conceivable to force treatment on drug abusers, rather than consenting
to their demands by legalizing marijuana, or any other drug.
Many have argued about the physical dependence marijuana may cause to those
who use the drug. Advocates of legalized marijuana claim that the drug is not addictive,
despite much opposition. According to Ron Kadden, “A lot of people think it’s not
addictive. [Users] have been told by treatment professionals and friends that they
couldn’t really be addicted to marijuana” (Boyce). Evidence shows otherwise, however,
and several studies have been conducted to prove that marijuana is, in fact, an addictive
drug. Steven Goldberg of the National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted one of these
studies, in which he found that even lab monkeys would seek out marijuana’s active
chemical, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes addiction, and the monkeys learned
to give themselves as many as thirty injections within an hour session; however, many
remain unconvinced by scientific data (Boyce). If this is so, can personal experience with
the addictiveness of the drug change the mind of those who stand firm in the idea that
marijuana has no physical dependence? The Director at Haight-Ashbury Detox Center,
Darry Inaba, asserts:
The main problem we’re dealing with today is that today’s potent form of
marijuana is causing a lot more problems than we saw in the 1960s…by the late ‘80s, we
started seeing people coming in, everyone of them on their own volition saying, ‘Help
me, I want to stop smoking pot. It is causing me these problems…I want to stop and I
can’t stop.’ At our program in San Francisco, we now have about one hundred patients
every month who are in treatment specifically for marijuana addiction. So many who
claim that marijuana is harmless have to sit down and listen to those people who are the
wounded, what we call the walking wounded or the casualties from marijuana use. (Inaba,
Cohen, and Holstein 247-248)
Should physicians be able to prescribe a drug that will cause the patient not only
to suffer from the disease that needs treatment, but also from a drug addiction?
Physicians are supposed to aid in the treatment of a patient, not deter their recovery by
causing yet another problem!
Although advocates of legalized marijuana argue that marijuana is an effective
treatment to the sick, many organizations strongly oppose this concept. Both the National
Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health maintain that there are better, safer
drugs available to treat illnesses (Lapey, “Marijuana as Medicine”). In over twelve
thousand studies on marijuana, the drug has never been proven to be effective for
treatment (Lapey, “Marijuana is NOT”); nevertheless, this controversial debate over
legalizing marijuana for medical use parallels with another dilemma in history. Kevin
Costello, MD, reflects upon a time when the United States was arguing over the
legalization of Laetrile, a drug that was not FDA approved but was believed to be an
effective cancer treatment (McNaughton). He states, “The public made a great outcry that
the medical establishment was withholding a miracle drug. Controlled testing
subsequently proved that Laetrile was useless for cancer and would even be harmful”
(McNaughton). Just as Laetrile was proven to be an ineffective means of treatment,
studies have proven marijuana to be just as unsuccessful. The safety and effectiveness
of marijuana, as a therapeutic medicine, has consistently been contested. If medical
treatment continues to be based on safe and useful drugs, marijuana will remain illegal.
In conclusion, state efforts to legalize marijuana, for any purpose, has only sent
younger generations the message that marijuana use is safe and acceptable. Many are
unable to comprehend why it is acceptable for marijuana to be legalized for medical
purposes but illegal for recreational use. This confusion is legitimate, because both the
recreational and medical use of marijuana pose a threat to the user. Several people are
beginning to realize that marijuana–a drug that cannot pass federal inspection quotas to
become a legalized medicine–can only be a threat to the state of a patient and, therefore,
are able to acknowledge that there are safer and more effective drugs available to treat the
disease at hand.
Boyce, Nell. “Hooked on Hash.” New Scientist 2000. 1 November 2000 .
Inaba, Darryl, William Cohen, and Michael E. Holstein. Uppers, Downers, All
Arounders. 3rd ed. Ashland: CNS, 1997.
Lapey, Janet. “Marijuana as Medicine Refuted By NIH Scientists.” Drug Watch
International 1993. 1 November 2000 .
—. “Marijuana is NOT a Medicine.” League Against Intoxicants 1998. 1
November 2000 .
“Medical Marijuana Briefing Paper 2000: The Need to Change State and Federal Law.”
Marijuana Privacy Project 2000. 1 November 2000 .
McNaughton, Marie T. “Medical Marijuana.” 1998. 1 November 2000 .
Satel, Sally “For Addicts, Force is the Best Medicine” Rottenburg, Annette T.
Elements of Argument. 1994 Bedford/St. Martin’s, 101-103.