May 15, 2012
Medical Marijuana: Scourge or Savior
In the United States and many other countries around the world Marijuana (the plants cannabis sativa or cannabis indica) is considered an illicit drug. In the North America, marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC, its variants and synthetics) have been classified in the DEA’s schedule I drug class, under the Control Substances Act of 1970, which includes many other substances such as heroin, LSD, mescaline and MDMA (Ecstasy). According to US Department Of Justice DEA Office Of Diversion Control (2012), " Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.” Despite its tenuous reputation as a substance that causes everything from mania to murder, modern research has shown marijuana to be benign if ingested properly, and moreover, actually beneficial in many ways. Medical Marijuana and its derivatives have been demonstrated to be safe and effective treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions and diseases, hence does not fit the DEA’s schedule 1 guidelines. Ancient History of Marijuana
Marijuana has been cultivated for thousands of years as hemp. Cannabis plants possess several properties which make the fibers produced from the plant (hemp) suitable for producing cloth and rope. Evidence of the utilization of hemp for just this purpose was discovered in a site in Taiwan dating back to the Stone Age (Wright, 2011). Records of the use of marijuana specifically for its medicinal properties have been found dating to back close to 5000 years. According to Chinese legend, the emperor Chen Nung discovered marijuana’s healing properties around 2700 B.C. His pharmacopeia, thought to be the oldest pharmacopeia on record, suggests the use of marijuana for over 100 ailments including gout, rheumatism and malaria ("The National Academies Press", 2012). Historical records of the ancient use of medicinal marijuana persist from Asia, India, the Middle East, and also Greek and Roman culture. In contrast, there is little record of the medicinal use of cannabis in Europe and the west. Marijuana: A Brief American History
Marijuana was eventually introduced to the Americas via the Spanish explorers, namely Columbus, who utilized hemp rope and hemp sails on the infamous ships that first landed on the shore of what would become the United States of America. By the late 18th century American medical journals began recommending marijuana for a myriad of ailments. An Irish Doctor by the name of William O'Shaughnessy, in the employ of the East India Trading Company, popularized the use of marijuana in America; O'Shaughnessy found that marijuana eased pain and helped dispel discomfort and nausea in the cases of rabies, cholera and tetanus (Stack, 2009). A major shift in US drug policy occurred in 1906 when congress enacted the Pure Food and Drug Act, consequently creating the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It wasn’t until 1914 that the use of drugs became a crime under the Harris Act, but only if one failed to pay the extravagant taxes levied on the substances. In 1936, the well-known American propaganda exploitation film Refer Madness portrayed the use of marijuana as resulting in disturbing scenarios such as a hit and run accident, manslaughter, attempted rape, and an eventual decent in to irreparable madness, none of which are factual characteristics of marijuana intoxication. By 1937 many states had outlawed marijuana, somewhat due to the Refer Madness propaganda but also in opposition to Mexican immigrants who openly used the plant for recreational purposes. In 1937 the federal government also enacted the Marijuana Tax Act which outlawed the non-medical use of marijuana. Despite the widespread use of hemp by the US government in WWII for...