in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known…
It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA
to continue to stand between those sufferers
and the benefits of this substance
(Francis L. Young, DEA’s chief administrative law judge, September 6, 1988)
On hearing the word “marijuana” most of the common people would most probably have an immediate association with “evil.” To some extent, they would undoubtedly be right: cannabis is an illicit drug that has a psychoactive impact and deleterious effects on humans.
But is there a reverse of the medal? Can marijuana have any positive effect? My cousin, who is battling breast cancer, would tell you there is at least one: the drug brings relief to those, who suffer from unbearable pain, those who are seriously ill. Suffering from wasting disorders, cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, and other diseases characterized by seizures, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis, persistent nausea, etc. – can all be alleviated by medical marijuana use.
The legislation in the USA does not provide consistent rules upon this controversial issue: while some states have symbolic medical marijuana laws, by the federal government it is treated as a Schedule I controlled substance which makes the possession, use, or cultivation of marijuana a federal crime.
Recreational use of cannabis can undoubtedly have adverse health effects, but it also has a positive impact on people with certain painful diseases; therefore, it should be legal to use marijuana when prescribed by a doctor for medical purposes.
Marijuana is a compound psychoactive drug, and its effect is individualistic as well as phase-dependent. The medical use of cannabis is quite diverse: the drug has therapeutically active substances that allow the reduction of chronic pain, muscle spasms, intraocular pressure, nausea, and much more. It is most often prescribed to patients who suffer from illnesses like AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, etc., as well as from the medicines and treatment negative influence. It is precisely the case of my cousin, who was prescribed medical marijuana as a last resort because of adverse side effects she endured while using prescription painkillers.
Ever since Supreme Court rejected medical marijuana in 2001 and allowed its prosecution in 2005, the conflict between the state and the federal rules has become a strain. According to Sherwood Cole, Ph.D., DABPS, twelve US states have laws allowing the use of medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. Arizona also has a similar law, but it does not have a formal program in place to administer prescription marijuana. As for the federal rules, governors consider cannabis to be a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 and ever since. And although there were some attempts to reverse the strictness of the federal law, at least to those states where medical marijuana usage is allowed, these efforts were not successful. The FDA and Supreme Court rule against the medical use of marijuana.
Therefore, some states are more advanced concerning care for those who are seriously ill than the federal government, DEA and the National Institutes of Health. It is clear that the support for more conservative and traditional ways of drug perception is a result of the risk and the fear of the increase of drug addiction and its distribution, as well as the aggravation of the withdrawal effects it may have upon humans. But, in fact, there is no scientific evidence that the introduction of rules legalizing medical use of cannabis increased the general level of consumption. For example, the level of marijuana use in Amsterdam (Netherlands), where it is legally allowed and publicly available for recreational use (not even medical!), and the consumption did not differ from the level of use in big cities like San Francisco, where recreational use is officially banned.
It is essential to resolve the conflict between the state laws and the federal laws, or at least adopt guidelines that would benefit patients and law enforcement officials.
As for the research upon the matter, it has also been quite a moot point for decades. To some extent, the federal government takes specific steps in the development of the scientific studies that might influence the future of the cannabis medical use. For example, the University of Mississippi has contracted with the National Institutes of Health since 1968 as the sole source of government-approved cannabis for medical research and experiment. But, unfortunately, the analysis is somewhat lop-sided. The government favors only those studies that deal with the harmful effects of cannabis use. DEA and the National Institutes of Health have blocked some marijuana research because they are biased against studies that do not focus on the plant’s health hazards for patients and recreational users.
The case of Lyle E. Craker, a professor of plant and soil sciences at Amherst, who advocates expanded research on both benefits and risks, he sought In June 2001 the DEA’s permission to grow pot at his university (Massachusetts). Massachusetts argues that Mississippi’s product is of insufficient potency and that the government has released too little of it to researchers. The DEA says the supply is ample, adding that other researchers have found the crop sufficient to meet their research needs. The controversial issue raises the problem of monopoly that leads to satisfied inequality of rights and maybe even lacks sufficient objectivity in the research processes.
The overwhelming downward trend strongly suggests that the effect of state medical marijuana laws on teen marijuana use has been either neutral or positive, discouraging youthful experimentation with the drug.
Recent polls show 72% of Americans favor making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe to reduce pain and suffering. To some extent, the issue becomes the matter of personal freedom of choice. One may object to the statement and conduct heated debates as much as one wants, but it is essential to keep in mind that those who suffer incurable, painful illnesses often do not have any other wish than to alleviate the suffering. To realize the vital importance of the issue, one should merely imagine, how would he or she feel, if the pain was their reality.
I write on the matter because I feel something should be done with the problem. A member of my family who has a severely depilating illness was prescribed medical marijuana as a last resort because of adverse side effects she endured while using prescription painkillers. Her doctor told her to use marijuana to help relieve some of the nausea she gets from her treatments. She is afraid to do this because even though it is legal in my state of California to use marijuana for medical purposes, the Federal Government could arrest her for it, though the suffering is sometimes unbearable.
It is not even a matter of moral choice. In the case of medical marijuana usage, the problem is as burning as it is sometimes vital for the patients. Those who suffer should not suffer twice: from pain and from the inability to lessen it.
The problem could be sold nationwide, or, at least for those states that have legislation supporting the medical use of marijuana. The cannabis could be reconsidered under federal law, allowing physicians to prescribe it in those countries that have recognized its use under their state law. The state governments might that want to establish medical marijuana distribution systems might also gain support from the federal government, for this system enables the institutions to control the prescription and use of marijuana for medical purposes.
It would, first of all, reduce the tension between the states and the federals, and alleviate the pain of those who suffer from severe diseases. I am sure they deserve the right to seek and receive help without being afraid of the unusual punishment.
Brainard, J. (2005). Legal showdown over medical marijuana pits Umass Against Ole Miss. Chronicle of Higher Education, 52, A34-A35. Retrieved March 12, 2006, from EBSCO Host database.
Cole, S. O. (2005). An update on the effects of marijuana & its potential medical use: forensic focus. The Forensic Examiner, Fall, 14(10). Retrieved March 12, 2006, from Infotrac OneFile database.
Mears, B. (7 June, 2005). Supreme Court allows prosecution of medical marijuana. CNN. Retrieved March 12, 2006, from www.cnn.com
Medical marijuana briefing paper. The need to change state and federal law. Marijuana policy project. Retrieved March 12, 2006, from http://www.mpp.org/medicine.html
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