Medical Marijana Essay, Research Paper
The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is an extremely controversial subject. There are many supporters, as well as many that are in opposition to the use of marijuana in any situation. Parties on both sides of the issue are regularly bringing forth new information to endorse their case.
Marijuana, made from an Indian hemp plant that bears the name cannabis sativa, is a mixture of stems, leaves, and flowering tops. The flowering tops are smoked for the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, that is concentrated there. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The use of marijuana as folk medicine began in Central Asia as far back as 3000 B.C. It’s use as a pleasure-inducing drug began in the 1900’s, becoming widespread in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the 60’s and 70’s, marijuana became the second most popular drug, alcohol being the first. This trend continues today (Berger).
The intoxication, or “high” acquired due to the smoking of marijuana, has two phases. These phases are initial stimulation followed by pleasant tranquillity. The initial stimulation includes giddiness and euphoria, then sedation and tranquillity (Berger). Another of the results of smoking marijuana is an increase in appetite known commonly as “the munchies.” Because loss of appetite and nausea are common side effects of illnesses for which marijuana is a possible medicine, “the munchies” is one of marijuana’s most valuable medicinal uses (Thompson 149).
There are many mistaken objections pertaining to the use of marijuana as a medicine. One of the most common of these myths is that marijuana is highly addictive, and that long-term users experience physical withdrawals when marijuana use is stopped. In actuality, most marijuana smokers smoke the drug only on occasion (Science 3). Marijuana has not been proven physically addicting and no physical withdrawal symptoms occur when use is discontinued (Berger).
Another myth commonly used to discourage the use of marijuana as a medicine is that marijuana has been scientifically proven to be harmful. In 1972,after reviewing scientific evidence, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse concluded that while marijuana is not totally safe, it’s dangers had been grossly overstated (Morgan 1). In 1995, based on thirty years of scientific research, editors of the British medical journal Lancet concluded that “the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to health” (Science 1).
Many anti-medical marijuana supporters have said that there is not medicinal value in marijuana. They claim that safer, more effective drugs, such as Marinol, are available. Marinol is a synthetic version of THC. In reality, smoked marijuana has been shown to reduce nausea induced by chemotherapy, increase appetites in AIDS patients, and reduce intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. Marinol is a synthetic THC capsule and is available by prescription but is not as effective as smoked marijuana for many patients. Furthermore, pure THC may produce more unpleasant psychoactive side effects than smoked marijuana (Morgan 2). Marinol is more expensive than regular marijuana and seems to cause higher levels of anxiety and depression. Also, because one of the main problems combated in chemotherapy is nausea and vomiting, a pill is probably not the best idea for treatment (Thompson 149).
There is a theory that marijuana is a “gateway” drug. Anti-marijuana supporters believe that even if marijuana itself causes minimal harm, it is a dangerous substance because it leads to the use of “harder drugs” such as heroin, LSD, and cocaine. Supporters dismiss this theory as “a casual explanation for the statistical association between common and uncommon drugs, which changes as drugs change in prevalence” (Morgan 4). Supporters explain that because marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the US today, people who have used less popular drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or LSD, have probably used marijuana. Also, for the large majority of people, marijuana is a terminus rather than a gateway drug because a person does not crave a “better high” when he or she uses it (Morgan 4).
One of the most common objections to legalizing marijuana for medical use is that it will set a bad example for children targeted by drug pushers. However, because marijuana would only be prescribed for seriously ill patients, the idea of smoking marijuana would not be glamorized (Thompson 150).
Proponents of medical marijuana say that it has been used as a therapeutic agent for centuries and swear by its abilities to help people in pain (Weed). “The fact is that marijuana, even if it is not fully understood, clearly helps many patients…clearly marijuana is worth investigating and even providing as medicine for pain relief, severe nausea, and appetite stimulation for seriously ill patients (Science 1). The most common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, caused by the chemotherapy drugs affecting the stomach, the area of the brain that controls vomiting, or both (You). There is strong evidence that marijuana reduces muscle spasticity in patients with neurological disorders (Morgan 2). According to DEA Judge Francis Young, “It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to stand between those sufferers [of terminal diseases] and the benefits of this substance.”
Richard Brookhiser is a cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy. Brookhiser was diagnosed with cancer in 1992, before the use of marijuana was legal in any state for medicine. While on chemotherapy, he experienced the usual resulting nausea. After legal antiemetic drugs did not work, he turned to marijuana. Brookhiser had smoked marijuana in the past and actually did not like the high. He smoked the marijuana for medical use only (Thompson 149).
As of 1997, twenty six states and the District of Columbia have existing laws and resolutions about medical marijuana. Many states allow doctors to prescribe marijuana or are asking the federal government to lift the ban on medical use. In ten states, laws about allowing medical marijuana have either been repealed or expired. Fifteen US states have had no medicinal marijuana laws ever (Weed). The US government opposes current exemptions to anti-marijuana laws and warns physicians that the distribution of marijuana to any patient may result in the loss of federally sanctioned privileges (Berger). There was a case recently in Portland, Oregon in which a doctor was fined heavily by the federal government for the distribution of marijuana for medical purposes (Webster 30).
In spite of the fact that the federal government is against medical marijuana, the Institute of Medicine, or IOM, confirmed in a March 1999 report that marijuana is valuable to many patients for whom other medications do not work. IOM’s report urged the federal government to make a commitment to getting medical marijuana research underway. Only one medical marijuana study has been approved since the mid-1980’s, indicating the need for more openness and clearer guidelines for researchers wishing to investigate marijuana.
In 1996, voters in both California and Arizona agreed to a bill for marijuana to be legalized for medicinal purposes. These ballot measures exempted doctors and patients from criminal prosecution when marijuana is prescribed for serious conditions. Medical Necessity laws similar to the ballot measures passed by California and Arizona voters were passed by Massachusetts and Ohio legislatures in 1996 (Berger).
Former Vice President Dan Quayle does not approve of medical marijuana. He feels that the bill passed by California was
“…so poorly written that it is riddled with loopholes and essentially legalized the use of marijuana in California…The Arizona bill, cloaked in the garb of waging a tougher war on drugs, legalized all Schedule One drugs for medicinal purposes” (Thompson 151).
Schedule 1 drugs are those having a high potential for abuse. Marijuana, heroin, LSD, and methamphetamines are all Schedule One drugs. The Arizona bill was overturned by state legislature in 1996 (Thompson 151).
Everyone has his or her own opinion on medical marijuana and it’s legalization. Each side of the debate presents data on a regular basis, some of which causes more controversy. Marijuana has many effects that would benefit patients with terminal diseases by reducing pain and increasing appetite. As a medicine, marijuana is a legitimate treatment for extremely ill sufferers.
Berger, Philip A. “Marijuana.” Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corporation. 1997.
Morgan, John P. and Zimmer, Lynn. Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts. Sarasota: Book World Services, Inc. 1997.
The Science of Medical Marijuana. 21 May 1999. .
Thompson, Stephen P., ed. The War on Drugs: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1998.
Webster, Maddy. “Legalizing Pot: What You Can Do.” High Times. Jan 1999: 30.
Weed Wars: Facts and Stats. CNNInteractive. 1997. .
You: Dealing with Chemotherapy. National Cancer Institute, Institute of Health. 28 Jan. 1999. .
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