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Should Marijuana Be Legalized for Medical Purposes

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Should Marijuana Be Legalized for Medical Purposes

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  • November 1, 1996
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Should Marijuana be Legalized for Medical Purposes?

Marijuana has been used extensively as a medical remedy for more than five thousand years. In the early 1900s, medical usage of marijuana began to decline with the advent of alternative drugs. Injectable opiates and synthetic drugs such as aspirin and barbiturates began to replace marijuana as the physician's drug of choice in the twentieth-century, as their results proved to be more consistent than the sometimes erratic effects of the hard-to-dose potencies of marijuana (Grinspoon). The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made cannabis so expensive to obtain that its usage as a medical remedy in the U.S. came to a halt. Although now illegal in the U.S., marijuana continues to be used for both medical and recreational purposes by many Americans. There are a variety of opinions both for and against the re-legalization of marijuana today. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legalization debate is whether marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes.

All drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are federally 'Scheduled' by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). A drug's scheduling under Federal law is determined "according to [its] effects, medical uses, and potential for abuse" (Claim V). In this classification system, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, grouped with heroin, LSD, hashish, methaqualone, and designer drugs. These are drugs having "unpredictable effects, and [causing] severe psychological or physical dependence, or death" (Claim V).

A closer analysis of the DEA's Federal Scheduling system reveals that, according to various studies by physicians on both sides of the legalization debate, marijuana does not meet the requirements of a Schedule I drug, but not those of Schedule II. The difference between the two classes is that Schedule I drugs may lead to death, while those on Schedule II are less likely to do so. Proponents of legalization cite information that indicates marijuana is a...