Medical Marijuana - the Debate

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Medicinal Marijuana: The Debate

Marijuana or Cannabis sativa is a natural grown plant in which the leaves, stems

and flowers contain delta-9-tetrahydro-cannibinal (THC). When smoked, THC gives the

user a type of euphoria or “high” feeling. However, many medical professionals and

patients claim that this drug also gives users medical benefits for various ailments;

and they are fighting to have this drug legalized for this reason. According to the National

Academy of Sciences (1999), “the high associated with marijuana is not generally

claimed to be integral to its therapeutic value. But mood enhancement, anxiety reduction

and mild sedation can be desirable qualities in medications, especially for patients

suffering pain and anxiety” (p. 83). The United States federal government disagrees

completely with this claim and provides research statistics to show how marijuana causes

serious medical conditions when smoked. Therefore, the government continues to

classify marijuana as an illegal drug and will arrest any person in possession of it.

Although marijuana may have negative health effects, it also has positive effects on

people with certain ailments; therefore, it should be legalized for medicinal purposes.

Marijuana has been used as a medicinal remedy all over the world for thousands

of years. In fact, the Chinese have the earliest written reference of marijuana’s medicinal

properties. These reference journals are dated in the early fifteenth century, B.C., and

document marijuana for its effectiveness on pain, sleep aid, appetite stimulation and anti-

convulsant. According to Lester Grinspoon (2007), “it’s a sad commentary on the state of

modern medicine that we still need proof of something that medicine has known for

5,000 years”. (p.1)

Since 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act has deemed it illegal to possess or consume

marijuana in the United States, even for medicinal purposes. Prior to Congress passing

this law, Americans used marijuana freely for many medical ailments. In 1970 marijuana

was classed as a Schedule I drug by the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are

noted to have a high potential for drug abuse with no accepted medical use. However, it

was in the early 1970’s that some cancer patients who were receiving chemotherapy

treatments discovered that smoking marijuana reduced their nausea and vomiting. “In one

study of 56 patients who received no relief from the standard antiemetic (anti-nausea)

agents, 78% became symptom-free when they smoked marijuana” (Grinspoon, 1997).

The controversy over the legalization of marijuana has been ongoing in the U.S.

since this rediscovery of its medicinal value. On October 1, 1997 the U.S.

House of Representatives Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee heard

testimonies from many professionals in hopes to pass the Marijuana for Medical Use Act.

One of the testimonies was from Lester Grinspoon, M.D., who was the Associate

Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Grinspoon (1997) claims

“Cannabis is remarkably safe. Although not harmless, it is surely less toxic than most of

the conventional medicines it could replace if it were legally available”(p.2). Although

studies do show medicinal value, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) continues

to state that “marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States”

(2007, p.1).

As with all pharmaceutical drugs in the U.S., numerous studies have been

conducted on the medicinal values of marijuana. Some findings have been noted that

marijuana does aid in the relief of many ailments including cancer treatment, AIDS

wasting syndrome, Glaucoma, seizures, Migraine headaches and other types of pain.

While other studies have linked marijuana to health issues such as impaired memory,

respiratory...
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