Should the Use of Medical Marijuana Be Legalized?

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Marijuana refers to a drug derived from dried leaves, stems and flowers of the cannabis plant, also called hemp. Cannabis sativa, as it is known scientifically, bears a chemical known as ‘delta-9 teterahydrocannabinol’ (THC in short) that alters mind functions of the user (Cohen, 2006). This ingredient is rapidly absorbed a short while after smoking the drug. It affects areas of the brain dealing with memory, perception, concentration and movement. This causes short-term physiological medical effects that include rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, increased blood pressure, dry mouth, red eyes, slowed reaction time, and increased appetite. Although these effects recede after 3 to 4 hours, cannabis remains in the system for about 24 hours after smoking. Psychologically, pot smoking causes euphoria, explaining the reason smokers habitually want to ‘get high’ or ‘stoned’. In addition, pot smoking causes short term psychological effects such as, discordant sense of time, paranoia, hallucination, anxiety, depression and short-term memory loss (Younts, 2005).

The use of marijuana in the United States starts at an early age of between 12 and 17, usually due to peer pressure and curiosity. For several decades now, many youngsters have believed that smoking marijuana is no big deal – it simply helps to stave off stress and to have fun. Furthermore, some adults are also convinced that pot is relatively ‘safe’ when compared with other hard drugs like cocaine or heroin (Cohen, 2006). However, the truth is quite the opposite of this commonly held belief. Having thoroughly examined the harm of all known psychoactive drugs and narcotic substances for the human body and the society overall, British scientists named marijuana the eighth most dangerous drug (The Lancet, 2007). The United States Congress entrenched marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act after agreeing that it had ‘no acceptable medical use’. Yet today, of the total 50 states, 16 have legalized the medical use of cannabis. Medical cannabis is claimed to be a safe and useful treatment for such medical conditions as cancer, pain, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, among others. This essay attempts to determine whether using marijuana for medical purposes is based on empirical data or rather just a populist myth.

If marijuana were just another common drug, its appropriateness for use as a medical substance would certainly be left to the discretion of physicians and patients. However, this decision is caught up in modern-day politics of drug warfare. Physicians and patients who get involved with the use of marijuana face grave consequences from the authorities, who seem to be bent on maximizing the fear and uncertainty, which people who might benefit from marijuana use face.

However, volumes of peer-reviewed studies, major government reports, independent research materials, actions of eminent medical organizations, and the history of medical use of marijuana, prove that marijuana’s medical use is viable and safe (Younts, 2005). Researchers have confirmed that THC is effective in blocking pain signals going to the central nervous system by tracking the biochemical path followed by pain signals from the injury, via the spine, to the brain. Why would the authorities, physicians and patients, ignore any drug that has the capability of relieving pain from these terminal diseases and which does not have the side effects of synthetic pain killers?

Moreover, marijuana use for medical purposes appears to be more effective compared to other mainstream painkilling drugs (Younts, 2005). Thus, in many instances, refusing to extend cannabis treatment to deserving patients is not only cruel, but also unnecessary. Treating the terminally ill does not pose a public threat, or open up more loopholes for trafficking, as many anti-marijuana activists argue. In most states, a large majority approves of its use in medical cases, and the federal government needs...
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