Law & Ethics
Imagine having a son who would punch other kids in the face without warning while you were out grocery shopping with him. Knocking things down and acting reckless were daily actions of an eight year old child diagnosed with Autism named Sam. This behavior has leaded his parents to search for a cure or treatment to lessen the destructive behavior that was affecting not only their family but also everyone around them. Several treatments were tried, and discarded, being more destructive than good. Finally as a last resort, they decided to begin treating their son Sam with medical marijuana, and the results were shocking. Sam’s dad began to grow marijuana plants in his backyard, and was able to make a concentrated form from the marijuana buds, which is known as hash. Sam’s daily dose of this hash is simply a small speck that he consumes, disguised in a piece of fruit. The effects are clear some twenty minutes later when Sam’s behavior changes drastically from hyper, aggressive, to calm relaxed. This is one of the many success stories of the medical benefits associated with medical marijuana.
The first place that I started to research the topic was in the classroom, I was browsing the Internet getting a general understanding of the topic. I went to the library and found many books that contained the majority of the information I will use in the paper. I also found some online sources, but I didn’t think they were as accurate. I managed to set up an interview with a medical marijuana caregiver/grower and was able to talk with him at great length about all aspects of the topic. I conducted an observation at a local medical marijuana dispensary, noticing the wide variety of people who seek the medical benefits of marijuana. The people that I saw were of all ages and races; it appears that marijuana does not discriminate. Findings
Medical use of Marijuana is relatively new and with it comes a lack of information quantity and widespread support. The information that has been collected however has proved several things. First of all we need to address whether the medical use of marijuana is dangerous. Many are concerned that the drug has addictive components that can lead to major health problems for chronic users, “Marijuana and cannabinoids have a generally excellent safety profile. Unlike many medicines, acute lethal overdoses of marijuana have not been reported, and research has not documented increased mortality attributable to chronic use.” (Merino 36). The book goes on to explain, “Marijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under physician supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions…greater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use” and “compared to most other drugs…dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare” (Marijuana policy project 78). There is quite a bit of confusion when it comes to actual addiction to marijuana and the withdrawal symptoms associated with its usage, the drug itself contains no addictive properties, however it is possible for a chronic user to become psychologically dependent on the drug. The studies do not support an addiction model, “Although some marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs” (Paul Armentano 38). Many associate smoking marijuana with smoking tobacco cigarettes claiming that marijuana is a carcinogen, containing more harmful chemicals than in tobacco. The most frequent cancer that marijuana is associated with is lung cancer. Studies prove, “the largest and most well-controlled studies have consistently found that marijuana smokers don’t have higher rates of lung cancer or other typically tobacco-related cancers. A 2006 NIDA funded case control study co-authored by Dr. Donald Tashkin- one of the worlds foremost experts on the repertory effects of illicit drugs-found no increased risk of lung cancer among even the heaviest marijuana smokers” (marijuana policy project 79-80). Also, “a 1997 Kaiser Permanente epidemiological study of 65,000 subjects showed no increase in lung or other tobacco-related cancers due to marijuana smoking, suggesting the potential of a favorable risk/benefit ratio for smoked medical marijuana in some chronic and/or painful conditions” (marijuana policy project 80). It becomes apparent after examining the evidence that marijuana is not addictive, does not cause bodily or psychological damage or pain, and can be considered safe and not harmful to users. The medical conditions that qualify for receiving a medical marijuana license are severe and notably diverse. Among the most debilitating medical conditions, AIDS (HIV), Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disorder, epilepsy, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, and multiple Sclerosis. The less attenuating conditions include: Arthritis, Asthma, migraines, nausea associated with chemotherapy, severe/chronic pain, various psychological conditions, and Tourette’s syndrome. These are but some of the many conditions that qualify, more specifically “We have crossed the threshold into exciting cannabis-related treatments for many conditions and symptoms. Cannabis gives relief from chronic pain which arises from a myriad of pain-producing illnesses; cannabis provides both analgesia and anti-inflammatory relief for autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, complex sympathetic dystrophy, and restless leg syndrome; and assists many with mental health problems, including attention deficit disorder (ADD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)-to name but a few conditions which have been shown to benefit from cannabis and cannabinoids” (David Bearman 23). While interviewing a medical marijuana caregiver, I learned first hand how marijuana helps on a daily basis to cope with the effects multiple sclerosis. Dennie, explains that on some days he physically cannot get out of bed because his neurological pain is too much to bear. Seeking almost immediate relief he smokes massive amounts marijuana so he is numb to the enormous amount pain that effects how he functions. And the effect it has on him is visible. His speech turns into more of mumbling tone, it appears that he has an increase in his salivating compared to normal. One might attribute the change to the relaxation and numbing of his oral muscles. He exhibits higher levels of excitement when responding to a question directed towards him, and rambles on and sometimes going off on a tangent. When there is no activity he is found staring off, and seems almost detached from reality. When confronted him about how he feels marijuana helps him he said that it makes him normal. He could not provide much information but did say that it helps him live with his disease but is by no means a cure. Observations that were made at a local medical marijuana dispensary reveal that the most unlikely people seek out medical marijuana as a helpful solution. One patient that stuck out from the rest was a twelve-year-old boy, seeking to purchase medicine as a result of colon cancer that had recently come out of remission. When asked about the benefits he experiences from marijuana he said that it helps him gain an appetite for food, as the chemotherapy he undergoes makes him not want to consume food. Moreover, it relieves the severe nausea and pain that go hand and hand with his treatments. Other observations showed that people of all ages, races, gender, and sizes use marijuana; people who we see and interact with on a daily basis. The dispensary keeps all transactions between the patient and the staff member serving them, they do not disclose any personal information for public knowledge, a very safe way to legally attain marijuana and to not have worry about other people finding out about it. Conclusion
Although the federal government considers marijuana illegal, the evidence supports that there is proven medical benefits associated with its use. Several common medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana usage, making it an affordable alternative from traditional treatments. Studies have showed that marijuana is not addictive, and does not cause cancer as is commonly confused with cigarette smoking, and is by no means harmful to smoke or ingest. Limitations experienced during research include, not collecting information on a wide enough scale such as worldwide or across the country, limited in what resources were available during the research period, limited on the amount of time allotted to conduct research, and the availability of people to interview. Suggestions that I have for further research on the topic is to collect more wide-scale data and more in-depth information. Works Cited And Annotated Bibliography
Merino, Noël, ed. Medical Marijuana. Farmington Hills MI: Greenhaven, 2011. Print. This is the source containing most of the information used in the research. The main argument that is addressed in the book is whether marijuana should be a medical option, and if it is considered dangerous. Legal issues involving regulation on marijuana are discusses but not used in the research as the main focus was on the actual medical benefits side of the issue. The point of the book is to discuss both sides of the issue. This source was very useful as it has many people contributing information for statistics and facts. Gillard, Arthur, ed. Marijuana. Farmington Hills MI: Greenhaven, 2009. Print. A great source that includes many personal accounts of medical marijuana helping real people in everyday life. Very reliable and useful for research information. Gives a solid account of the history of marijuana and how it has evolved to what it is at present. The book has a positive and negative side of each part of the issue so at times it is biased. This has shaped my paper to include great direct quotes. “Benefits of Medical Use of Marijuana.” Personal interview. 25 Oct. 2011. Personal interview conducted, provided a first hand account on how marijuana benefits a person suffering from multiple sclerosis. One can witness exactly what effects the drug has one users. This would be considered a very useful source compared to a book or website, as it provides much detailed information. This is a biased source, as he does not have a neutral standpoint, but one that is in favor of medical marijuana. “Medical Marijuana.” Medical Marijuana ProCon.org. Procon.org, 30 Nov. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 12 This source was not used in the in text citations. It was primarily used for researcher background information and general understanding. The point of the article is to address all of the pros and cons surrounding medical marijuana, it is a reliable source and includes a discussion board where people are free to ask questions and propose ideas that really get people thinking. Degenhardt, L., and W. D. Hall. “The Adverse Effects of Cannabinoids: Implications for Use of Medical Marijuana.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 178.13 (2008): 1685-686. Print. The Canadian article discusses effects on marijuana on the body and on the brain. It shows that marijuana is not harmful and does no damage to a person who uses. The source is reliable but brief, lacking content. It was not used in the paper, as it was mostly repeated information that was found in other sources.