The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a social or political issue, seems to be in question. The opponents to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes stick to the same argument of social and at times religious effects. The support of the movement seems to be basing all evidence in the far-reaching uses of cannabis beyond medical application. With Washington and Colorado both recently legalizing marijuana for recreational use, it reopens the debate about whether or not marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes in the United States. A look at the current research, an analyzing the argument of those who are pro medical marijuana against those who are against suggests the only reason that marijuana is not legal for medical purposes is because of social and political factions who are actively fighting against such legislation.
One of the arguments against medical marijuana is that it serves no medical purpose and people use the medicinal argument in order to “get high.” That view is contrary to research done by the Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior reports. THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol and it is the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Researchers have shown in rodents that CBC, a non-psychoactive property of the marijuana plant could mitigate neural generation associated with excessive consumption levels of alcohol.
The study titled “Transdermal delivery of cannabidiol attenuates binge alcohol-induced neurodegeneration in rodent model of an alcohol use disorder.” Was done by the University of Kentucky’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. The study showed that one property of marijuana could help mitigate some of the ill effects of alcoholism. The part of the pot plant that was used was not the psychoactive component, THC that is usually talked about. According to the study’s authors, “These results demonstrate the feasibility of using CBD transdermal delivery systems for the treatment of alcohol-induced neurodegeneration.”.
One of the most prominent arguments against the use of medical marijuana is that there is “NO reliable evidence that marijuana has medical value. Existing evidence is either anecdotal, unscientific, or not replicated” (Thompson, 2009). When valuing two arguments it becomes important to look at not just the argument, but how it is framed. The argument that there is absolutely no evidence for there being medical uses for medical marijuana is categorically false.
There has been plenty of scientific evidence that has come to the conclusion that confirms the medical benefits of marijuana. In 1999, it was studies done by the IOM, national Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine whose research showed “Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana”. Since there were laws in place for a number of years preventing researchers from doing scientific research involving the study of the medical benefits of marijuana, good data and research does not exist in abundance on the issue. There have been other studies though outside of the work done by the IOM, which shows positive properties existing from the THC in Marijuana.
More recent research has shown the benefits of medical marijuana. Three studies conducted by the University of California and published in 2007 have shown that marijuana can relieve neuropathic pain caused by damage to the nerves. This is the type of pain the regularly affects people with multiple sclerosis, AIDS diabetes and a variety of other conditions in which the prescription medicine available is lacking. A study conducted by the European Journal of Gastroenterology showed that patients with hepatitis C who used marijuana had cure rate of three times those not using it.
Outside of such studies there is also the testimony of the DEA’s chief administration judge, Francis Young, who surprised many in a ruling when he stated, “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those suffers and the benefits of this substance.
While in a country of free speech, there is always room for debate and a difference of opinion, to state flat out that marijuana offers no medicinal benefits whatsoever, is to deny a vast body of research, statistical, analytical, and anecdotal that is out there.
Another argument against the legalization of medical marijuana is that it is an addictive substance and patients prescribed it for a certain condition will then be stuck with another condition of drug dependency to THC. There are two arguments against this line of reasoning. IN the first is that just because a substance has the potential to be abused, does not mean that it is without a role in the pharmacy. Drugs like Oxycodone have been shown to be very habit forming. Even those who believe that marijuana is habit forming would need to admit that it carries with it a much lower risk of dependency than a drug like Oxycodone. Colin Blakemore, who is the chair of the department of physiology in The University of Oxford, wrote that, “Unlike for nicotine, alcohol and hard drugs, there is no clearly defined withdrawal syndrome, the hallmark of true addiction, when use is stopped [for marijuana]”.
Another argument against the use of any marijuana, medical or recreational, is that marijuana is a gateway drug leading a user to experiment with other, “harder” drugs. The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration put out a report which said “A new federal report released today concludes the younger children are when they first use marijuana, the more likely they are to use cocaine and heroin and become dependent on drugs as adult”. When looking at a statistic like this, it is important to remember that correlation does not prove causation. It is reasonable to assume that an individual willing to experiment with marijuana at an early age, even while the recreational use of marijuana is illegal, is of a personality type that is more likely to experiment with other and harder drugs. So while this fact is often entered into the literature on the medical marijuana debate, it is not extremely relevant or helpful in the context of the debate.
This is a debate surrounding medical marijuana is a polarized debate. Unhelpful to being able to rationally look at the situation is that for the past 50 years the US government has had a sustained propaganda campaign directed against marijuana. This creates a climate that is not based on logic, but on coerced opinions. A look at the research out there shows that there are serious researchers who have made positive links between marijuana and medical therapies.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the state of Washington for past 16 year. This has promoted the concept of neighbourhood or community garden, which is in addition to users growing them in their backyard. However, under pressure from Federal government, the state is now considering regulating the whole industry. They are debating the amount an individual can grow in their garden, eliminate collective garden, and unlike the recreational users, the medical users will have to register with the state. And the medical marijuana will be sold only be the new licensees, thereby shutting down the medical dispensary system. The whole approach looks retrogressive, as it is the recreational marijuana that should be regularize. Moreover, regularization by licencing system will only prompt people to evade the system. The need of the hour is good governance than regularization, as the latter looks good only on paper. The proponents of the new regulation contend that it will help remove fraud and ensure that whole of the state has uniform law. Here, I fully agree with the medical marijuana users that it will only make life difficult for the genuine users. They believe that the trusted dispensaries will be shut down and choices will decrease. And these new licences will prefer to stock the recreational varieties, which are more profitable. Complicating the things further is the fact that in the new licensed locations, the buyers won’t be able to seek medical advice, the way they typically do at any pharmacy. This is probably one thing on which both sides agree.
This step also poses another legal hurdle, especially to those who are receiving social security. They believe their coverage will be jeopardized as they would have admitted taking drugs.
The proponents of the new regulation believe that it will prevent misuse, which was earlier happening when recreational users were presenting wrong symptoms to the doctors. I would believe that this not a sufficient grounds for regularizing, as such things can potentially happen with other opioid analgesics. As we have already discussed, they are potentially more harmful than medical marijuana.
The opponents of medical marijuana feel that the benefits have been exaggerated on the social media. They believe that this is prompting the parents and guardians of children to do whatever it takes to get marijuana. They further claim that there is very little evidence in support of efficacy and safety of marijuana. I would contend that just because there isn’t sufficient evidence does not mean the contrary. In fact, this controversy should only prompt researchers to find out more about its medical use. These opponents are also leading us to believe that the recent legislations in favour of legalizing were endorsement without research to back it. I would contend that legalization will prompt even greater interest in clinical research. They say there is no data to suggest that it will help in epilepsy. But, this does not mean there is no possibility. Clinical research hasn’t proved otherwise either. In the same way where is the evidence to support that it should be banned. However, I do agree with them that a thoroughly objective clinical trial must be conducted. And yes, the underlying idea should be to explore the benefits and not to look for reasons to ban it.
Very similar fears have been expressed in Canada, where two men from BC are launching a constitutional challenge against the federal law that seeks to declare the medical cannabis dispensaries are illegal. There also, it is being realized that these dispensaries “provide patient-centered care, alternative access and a sources of knowledge about medicating with cannabis to many individuals”. The concerns expressed over there are same; it will ignore the dispensary model, will not be able to provide the individuals with high-quality care, and other social capital like the education and patient network. Moreover, Health Canada’s regulation does not allow for on-site pick up. It allows only mail or courier delivery, and also, does not allow for alternative products. I really wonder why the government would create such legislation. Also, the mail order system has a greater chance of misuse as there is no way to confirm who ends up using it. In case of medical dispensaries, the relationship build with the customers can help identify medical users from recreational users.
In conclusion, I would strongly suggest that appropriate and objective research be done on pharmacological benefits of marijuana. We have to have a scientific approach, and it should not be banned only the basis of potential social fallouts. After, almost all the current drugs are plant based. And most of them are derived from plants that also produce other harmful products. If medical research hasn’t proved the medical benefits of marijuana, it hasn’t proved opposite either. It is very likely that sustained research might bring about specific chemicals that can be used to treat more disease than we currently think about.
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