Should Marijuana be a Medical Option?
There is a question about legalizing medical marijuana in this paper. I analyzed the properties of marijuana, its affect, advantages and disadvantages. There are arguments for and against the legalization. Based on this information I explained my point of view.
Should Marijuana be a Medical Option?
The discussion about marijuana legalization does not stop for many years. Clinical research has found marijuana to be effective in treating symptoms of acute pain, HIV/AIDS, Tourette’s syndrome and multiple sclerosis (Chapkis & Webb, 2008, pp 51-52). Other studies have pointed toward a host of new applications, such as treating rheumatoid arthritis, ALS, gastro-intestinal disorders, hepatitis C, fibromyalgia, perhaps even diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Biochemical research has improved understanding of cannabinoids, and their analgesic, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-tumorigenic and immune-modulatory properties. Over 300 thousand Americans are using marijuana under state medical marijuana laws. Thousands of physicians recommend marijuana. The legalization of marijuana promises to bring some positive effects in medicine and economy. However, there is a government’s opposition to legalizing medical marijuana despite the evidence of its effectiveness. It is classified as the illegal substance. The National Institute of Medicine delivered a report about medical marijuana and its benefits, but it was ignored. The Supreme Court has twice rejected legal challenges to the federal laws against medical marijuana.
The mankind discovered marijuana thousands years ago. Until 1937, it was legal and prescribed medically in USA. Despite its prohibition, marijuana is the one of the most used drugs in States. The recreational and medical uses of cannabis are known from the ancient times. The famous Chinese surgeon Hua To used marijuana to do painless operations in the 2nd century A.D. The documents tell about the medical use of marijuana in the Eastern India. The Ancient Assyrians mentioned it in their medicinal texts. Even some Biblical scholars think cannabis is the same as “kaneh bosm” mentioned in Exodus 30:23. God directed Moses to make an oil of kaneh bosm, cinnamon, and kassia. Ancient Greek physician Dioscorides described cannabis in medical writings; he recommended it to prevent diminishing sexual desires, earaches and flatulence. In 1839, the Irish doctor William B. O’Shaughnessy took knowledge about medicinal properties of marijuana to Europe. He defined it as the good analgesic. In times of Victorian Era, cannabis helped to treat the painful childbirth and menstruation, neuralgia, asthma, senile insomnia and migraines (Gieringer, Rosenthal & Carter, 2008, p. 4). The Marijuana Act ended the medical use of this drug in 1937, and it was taken away from the American pharmaceutical market. In 1944, the experts of the New York Academy of Medicine concluded marijuana to cause no addiction or abuse of other drugs. In 1971, President Richard Nixon arranged the Presidential Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. The commission recommended repealing the laws against the use of marijuana by adults, but Nixon rejected their report. In 1982, the National Academy of Sciences concluded the same, but the President Reagan ignored that information. In the late 1970s, there was the highest interest in marijuana and its benefits. Thirty-five states approved legislation to create research programs about medical marijuana. Federal drug regulations eventually smothered each program, and that made it impossible to continue scientific medical marijuana research. Marijuana was classified as the substance that had the high abuse potential and no medical benefits. In 1988, DEA judge Francis Young lined that cannabis should be set as a Schedule 2 drug, but DEA chief John Lawn overruled his recommendation despite the fact that cocaine and morphine were classified as a Schedule 2 substances. In 1996, the California Compassionate Use Act freed patients with a physician’s recommendation from prosecution for cultivating or possessing marijuana for medical use. To this day, the U.S. government insists that the use of marijuana is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. There are three hundred thousand Americans who use marijuana in a legal way. Eighty percent of Americans supports the legalization of medical marijuana. Perhaps, that is only a matter of time, and soon there will be a law allowing the use of medical marijuana (Gieringer, Rosenthal & Carter, 2008, p. 10).
Marijuana is a safe drug. The active ingredients such as THC and other cannabinoids produce the effects at doses of a few milligrams, and it has no lethal effects. Other psychoactive drugs, such as opiates, alcohol, aspirin, caffeine, and nicotine, can lead to death due to overdosing. The lethal dose of marijuana can be twenty thousand to forty thousand times a normal dose, and that is about 40-80 pounds of it. There were no deaths recorded from marijuana overdose. However, it does not mean marijuana has no adverse effects. It may cause harm if to be used excessively. Marijuana acts through the chemicals named cannabinoids; the most psychoactive among them is delta-9-tetrahydro cannabinol (THC). It affects the brain centers that control consciousness. THC’s primary site of action is the brain, particularly the higher brain centers that affect consciousness. Cannabinoid receptors are concentrated especially in the hippocampus, which affects the higher functions of memory, feelings, and action. By acting on these higher brain systems, marijuana produces some of its most striking medicinal benefits, affecting perception of pain, mood, hunger, and muscle control. Marijuana may also produce more subtle medical effects through direct action on bodily tissues, such as immune system cells. Most of marijuana users report pleasurable sensations.
Here are some of the more commonly reported impressions of ‘being high’ on cannabis:
- Heightened attentiveness to sensory stimuli, especially touch, taste, and sound; heightened interest in food and music.
- Free flow of ideas in rapid, loose, dreamlike succession.
- Disruption of concentration and short-term memory.
- A sense of floating, light-headedness, or dizziness, and/or a sense of heaviness in the trunk and limbs.
- Hyperactivity, restlessness, hilarity, and talkativeness for the first hour or two, followed by sleepiness and/or torpor after two to six hours.
- Subjective ‘time expansion’, a tendency to overestimate the amount of time that has passed.
- Impairments in decision-making and coordination, especially when performing complex tasks; confusion; difficulty expressing thoughts in words and slurred speech.
The effect is primarily caused by the cannabinoids, which are a unique constituent of the marijuana plant. In nature there have been identified eighty-six cannabinoids. Others have been chemically synthesized. The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetra-hydrocannabinol, or THC. However, other cannabinoids also have medicinal and/or psychoactive properties. THC does not occur in its active form in the cannabis plant. Rather, it occurs in the form of an acid known as tetrahydrocannabinol acid or THC acid (THCA). When heated, the THCA is quickly converted to THC in a heat-driven reaction known as decarboxylation. The next most common cannabinoid is CBD. It has anti-anxiety, anti-epileptic, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective and sedative actions. It is a powerful anti-oxidant, which protects from chemical damage because of oxidation. Animal and laboratory studies suggest that CBD has the ability to protect against the certain types of cancer, development of diabetes, nerve and brain damage due to stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, Huntington’s disease and alcoholism, and infections such as ‘mad cow’ disease. The third most common cannabinoid is CBN, which is a byproduct of chemical breakdown of THC. CBN has low psychoactive and medical effects. It is most commonly found in degraded, poorly preserved marijuana. In addition to cannabinoids, marijuana contains over one hundred terpenoids; aromatic chemicals also found in pine trees, citrus, and other odoriferous plants. Terpenoids are responsible for the distinctive aroma and flavor of marijuana. Many investigators believe terpenoids also contribute to significant medicinal effects. Compared to the cannabinoids, relatively little is known about the terpenoids in cannabis. Cannabis also contains over 20 flavonoids, a family of chemicals common to plants. Some of these flavonoids, known as cannflavins, are unique to cannabis. Flavonoids are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties and may help protect against cancer and other diseases (Gieringer, Rosenthal & Carter, 2008, p. 16). Hence, it would be wise to legalize marijuana since people can benefit from its numerous good properties.
Heavy marijuana users tend to develop a tolerance or decreased sensitivity to the effects of marijuana. Pleasant sensations such as euphoria tend to fade with heavy, regular use. On the other hand, the same may be true of undesired effects, such as an increased heart rate (tachycardia). Less frequently, patients may develop tolerance to the medical benefits of marijuana. Furthermore, one person may be much more sensitive to the various components in marijuana than another one. Marijuana rarely increases toxic effects of other medicines. In this respect, it differs even from such common drugs as alcohol, which is extremely dangerous in combination with depressants, or aspirin, which is dangerous in combination with blood-thinning drugs such as Coumarin. This is yet one more example of marijuana’s remarkable safety. Marijuana is not physically addictive. Smokers may use it many times daily for many years, and then give it up with no difficulty. However, psychological addiction is possible. When experts compare marijuana with nicotine, alcohol, opiates, cocaine, caffeine, and other psychoactive drugs, they rank it at or near the bottom of the list in terms of withdrawal potential, reinforcement and dependence (Roffman & Stephens, 2006, p.31). A minority of long-term, extremely heavy (several doses daily) recreational users experience subtle withdrawal symptoms when they give up marijuana. These include mild anxiety, depression, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, vivid dreams, irritability, tremors, perspiration, nausea, muscle convulsions, and restlessness. These symptoms, though mild, may persist for a few days, but are only noticeable among the heaviest users, and even then, they present no real obstacle to anyone trying to quit (Roffman & Stephens, 2006, p. 32). All the chemical properties of marijuana tell about safety of this drug. There is no physical addiction and deaths, and it makes the user feel good. Hence, there are no good reasons for prohibition.
The legalization of marijuana was promoted as safety and public health measure and the way to decrease crimes related with drugs. This will not reduce the amount of illegal drug trade and the crimes related with that. However, this can be a source of tax revenue and reduce the high cost of marijuana because of the law enforcement. From the other side, state legalization will cause the conflict between state law and federal law because according to federal law marijuana is illegal. Advocates for legalization of marijuana promote that the cost of tobacco and alcohol is higher than the cost of marijuana. They recognize that legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol are widely used and cause more harm than marijuana, and perhaps more harm than all illegal drugs combined. Legal drugs negatively affect the public health and produce health and financial burdens. The revenues from taxes on tobacco and alcohol presently do not meet the costs of treatment and prevention. There are 2,700,000 alcohol-related arrests over the year. In comparison, there are 750,000 annual arrests for marijuana possession (Caplan, 2012). With the increase of marijuana use due to legalization, there may be the increase of arrests for marijuana related incidents like driving under influence, public use violation and violation in the law regulating the age limits. The new researches show that the use of marijuana doubles the risk of the crash. There is a law prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol so it would be a good compromise to prohibit driving under marijuana influence. Advocates of marijuana legalization want to set the age limit of twenty-one for marijuana users. The studies of University of Michigan have shown an inverse relationship between the perception of risk of harm from the use of a drug and the rate of the use of that drug. Over decades the tendency was following: when the perception of harm from marijuana use was high, marijuana use was low, and when the perception of harm from marijuana use was low, the use was high. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supposes basing on the experiences of tobacco and alcohol that marijuana legalization may have the negative effect on youth. The perceived risk of harm would decrease, but the use would increase. The AAP suggests that marijuana legalization may cause public health harm among youth. As we talk about medical marijuana, then there is no question about the whole society problem. Legalization of medical marijuana will help those who need it. The College on Problems of Drugs and Dependence (CPDD) thinks that the more available drug is the more people use it, and the more problems it may cause because of heavy use. In 2008, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) suggested that medical marijuana laws do not increase the use of marijuana by teens. The rates in 1990s were higher than in the 2000s. The harmful health effects of cannabis use are unknown or overlooked, but the legalized marijuana sale and use may increase the number of people with the need of treatment because of marijuana addiction (Pfeifer, 2011).
In this paper, the facts about consequences of marijuana legalization were presented. Some advocate the legalization and some are against it. From the both sides, there are things that need to be regulated. This paper describes marijuana, its chemical properties, effects and results of the use. On the basis of the abovementioned facts it can be concluded that marijuana is a substance that does not cause health harms. There is tons of information about how tobacco and alcohol damage the body. Nothing similar is about cannabis. Of course, it can lead to tolerance and psychological addiction, but there have been no deaths caused by marijuana. The tobacco and alcohol are legal drugs that kill people; at the same time, marijuana is an illegal drug that does not kill humans. The excessive use of any substance can be bad for health so it would be wise just to establish a golden middle for cannabis use. Numerous positive effects of cannabis advocate for its application in medical field. So the question arises, is it wise to ignore such benefits offered by the nature?
Caplan, G. (2012). Mcgeorge law review | volume 43.
Chapkis, W., & Webb, R. J. (2008). Dying to get high: Marijuana as medicine. New York: New York University Press.
Gieringer, D., Rosenthal, E., & Carter, G. T. (2008). Marijuana medical handbook: Practical guide to the therapeutic uses of marijuana. San Francisco, CA: Quick American archives.
Pfeifer, D. J. (2011). Smoking gun: The moral and legal struggle for medical marijuana. Touro Law Review. 27 (2). Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.tourolaw.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=lawreview
Roffman, R., & Stephens, R. S. (2006). Cannabis dependence: Its nature, consequences and treatment. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.