Legalizing Medical Marijuana
The debate over whether to legalize marijuana has been one of the most controversial issues dividing courts, the federal government, state governments, and voters. In 1996, Arizona and California voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Propositions 200 and 215 represented a dramatic shift from a previously united federal and state front against illegal drugs to one where state governments and voters are now at odds with the federal government over the medical use of controlled substances. Rather than focusing on how to improve and maintain the long-standing war on drugs, the policy issue has now become; who controls America’s drug laws, courts, the federal government, state governments, or the voters? In addition, the legalization of marijuana poses other questions; does legalizing marijuana undermine the seemingly endless federal war on drugs by moving towards greater tolerance of marijuana and other drugs? Is more research necessary to determine the benefits or hazardous effects of marijuana? Would legalizing marijuana open the floodgates to legalizing other controlled substances such as heroin or LSD? This paper analyzes and examines. The history of marijuana legalization and prohibition. The arguments for and against legalizing marijuana. This paper concludes by recommending that before marijuana is legalized for medical use there needs to be more testing to improve our knowledge and understanding of marijuana. The first recorded use of marijuana as medicine was in a Chinese pharmacopoeia in 2727 B.C. The cornerstone of drug prohibition in the United States was the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 which restricted the use of opiates such as cocaine, heroin, and morphine to medical purposes (Trebach and Inciardi, p. 43). In the United States, marijuana was legal until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 established the federal prohibition of the drug. (Grinspoon; Trebach and Inciardi). Had marijuana not been removed from the list of drugs in the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1937, it would have been grand fathered into the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act as a prescription drug, just as cocaine and morphine were. (Grinspoon). As a result of the tremendous increase in the number of recreational drug users and a more liberalized political climate, marijuana medicinal uses were rediscovered in the 1970s. In the later 1970s and 1980s, marijuana was medically used by hundreds of patients (mainly in the form of synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol) in research projects conducted by several states for the treatment of nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy. (Grinspoon). Likewise, in 1976, the federal government approved the use of marijuana as a medicine by instituting the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program (CIND), under which physicians could obtain an Investigational New Drug application (IND) for a patient to receive marijuana. (Grinspoon). However, this program was so filled with and bureaucratically overburdened that in the course of history only about three dozen individuals ever received marijuana.
One argument in favor of legalization is that marijuana provides several medical benefits for individuals suffering from asthma, cancer, glaucoma, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, and other symptoms and syndromes. (Grinspoon, p. 1). First, marijuana is remarkably non-toxic as evidenced by the fact that there has never been a reported death caused by marijuana overdose. (Grinspoon, p. 1). In addition, marijuana’s long-term and short-term effects (i.e., increased appetite, increased memory loss/slowed memory function, etc.) are relatively inconsequential compared to medicines for which marijuana may be substituted. (Grinspoon, p. 1). Next, once patients no longer have to pay the prohibition tariff, marijuana will be less expensive than the medications it replaces. (Grinspoon, p. 1)....
References: Grinspoon, Lester. Medical Marihuana in a Time of Prohibition. International Journal of Drug Policy, April, 1999.
Trebach, Arnold S. and Inciardi, James A. Legalize It? Debating American Drug Policy. The American University Press, Washington, DC. 1993.
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