Medical Marijuana and the Pharmaceutical Industry

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Hao Tran
MGMT 518
Research Paper
Medical Marijuana: The Law and the Pharmaceutical Industry
Marijuana is continuously under fire in regards to its legality and relationship to society and the law. Under Federal law, the use of marijuana, also known as cannabis, is illegal for any reason. It is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act alongside heroin and ecstasy; with assertions that it has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Yet, why do some states continue to allow the legal use, possession, and sale of a Schedule I drug? The answer is expected - because the people recognize that there are, in fact, various effective medicinal properties of marijuana that can benefit certain classes of people and patients. The history of cannabis use has been documented throughout time, and in a variety of cultures that determined cannabis has relevant therapeutic and medicinal purposes. However, the illegal status it maintains in the U.S. is relatively recent and is thought to be a product of political and social propaganda aimed against its use throughout the 20th century. Currently, sixteen states and Washington D.C. have marijuana laws in effect relating to its medicinal use; with some states even going as far as to decriminalize some marijuana related activity.# Keep in mind that even though marijuana is decriminalized in some states, its use is still illegal and criminal under Federal law. Which raises the following issues: Why is marijuana still classified as a Schedule I drug if there is empirical evidence showing it to be an effective medical treatment? What are the social, political, and corporate agendas associated with ongoing marijuana prohibition? And lastly, is it ethical for the government to be allowed to interfere with one’s human right to seek relief through means of cannabis? Among these issues are several factors that come into existence when discussing the legal status of marijuana, including its role in health care, perception by society, and influence on the government. To truly understand the medicinal benefits of marijuana, one must look to those that use it as a means of treatment and appraise the quality of life of those patient-users. It has been shown that using marijuana can alleviate nausea and stimulate hunger in cancer and AIDS patients. Usage is also intended for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, insomnia, anxiety, glaucoma, and depression. Even the Institute of Medicine has released statements declaring that scientific data supports the therapeutic value that cannabis provides.# Without a doubt the medicinal benefits exist, yet it is still classified as a drug that “has no accepted medical use in treatment under Federal law.” It is evermore transparent that marijuana does not satisfy the requisites to be categorized as a legitimate Schedule I drug. What continues to make this issue increasingly more convoluted is that it is perfectly legal to synthesize the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive chemical compound that give marijuana its therapeutic qualities. As a matter of fact, the pharmaceutical industry has been well established in manufacturing and distributing cannabis alternatives under the name Dronabinol (brand name Marinol).# Its use is intended to mimic the desired therapeutic properties of marijuana and relieve many of the same symptoms. Furthermore, the medicinal use of Dronabinol is completely legal under Federal law, initially classified as a Schedule II drug and later reclassified to the an even less stringent Schedule III drug, even though the effects and purpose of that and marijuana are fundamentally the same.# So, why are two drugs with essentially the same purpose classified differently under the Controlled Substances Act? Well, it simply comes down to business. The marijuana industry, legal or not, is an established and fully operational business. Estimates of...
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