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Marijuana As Medicine Essay, Research Paper

For many years, the United States government has prohibited some drugs, such as marijuana, from being sold in the marketplace. Yet, even with prohibition, marijuana use has only decreased minimally. Because of its illegality, only the bad aspects of marijuana use have been made known. However, there are many positive aspects of marijuana legalization, including its application concerning to medical cures. As of today, in most of the states, marijuana is classified as an illegal drug. However, due to its proven medicinal purposes the drug should be made available for people to use.

Marijuana has been used for multiple purposes prior to the birth of Christ. Marijuana originated in the Middle East. China played an important part in marijuana’s history. Hoatho, the first Chinese physician, used cannabis for medical purposes as a painkiller and as an anesthetic for surgery (Mathre 35). China was not the only country that used marijuana as a medicine. For example, in Thailand it was used to stimulate the appetite of people who were ill. It would make them sleep, and counteract diarrhea (Mathre 36). Clearly, we can see that the use of marijuana began as a medicine, and with more research we can find better uses of marijuana as for medicinal purposes.

Marijuana is very helpful to ease the suffering of the sick, but it also creates side effects. The scientific evidence published to date indicates that marijuana has a broad range of psychological and biological effects, some of which are harmful to human health. Marijuana has different effects on the nervous system and on behavior. Marijuana impairs motor coordination and affects tracking ability and sensory and perceptual functions important for safe driving. It also impairs short-term memory and slows learning (Marijuana and Health 2). Marijuana smoke is a complex mixture that has many chemical components and biological effects similar to tobacco smoke. However, it also contains some different ingredients. This suggests the strong possibility that marijuana, like tobacco, could lead to lung cancer, or create respiratory distress. Smoking marijuana also causes changes in the heart and circulation that are characteristic of stress (Marijuana and Health 72). Evidence supports that marijuana increases the work of the heart, usually by increasing the heart rate, and in some people that is a threat (Marijuana and Health 73). Current evidence has shown marijuana also causes some chemical changes in the brain. After exposure to this drug, there have been reports of effects on brain electrical activity in human beings and in animals. Marijuana also has been found to produce an acute brain syndrome. This is a more severe mental problem consisting of confusion and loss of contact with reality (Marijuana and Health 129).

The main reason that the United States Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t want marijuana use to be legalized is because there is no evidence to date that proves that marijuana is an effective drug when used for medicinal purposes. Scientists have researched this drug for twenty years and have yet to produce reliable scientific proof that marijuana has medical value. The American Cancer Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Medical Association all agree that there is some evidence that use of marijuana as a medicine has merit (High Times). The agencies also argue that no other drug prescribed is smoked. New findings show that marijuana is acutely harmful to AIDS and cancer patients because the active ingredient in marijuana acutely reduces the white blood cells that fight off infection.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency agrees with police departments that if marijuana use is legalized, crime could increase due to a higher number of users. Statistics have proven that eventually these marijuana users could become addicted and crime could increase. These users would need to purchase the drug, and as the need increases, more money would be needed to fund this habit.

There are also many advantages of smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes. Persons suffering from the advanced stage of AIDS find that marijuana stimulates their appetites. They are able to digest foods to gain strength and prevent emaciation. Glaucoma patients have discovered that using marijuana has prevented them from going blind by diminishing their sight retardation. Cancer patients use marijuana to alleviate the severe nausea that is a side effect of chemotherapy. By the 1930s marijuana’s use as a drug began to decline. Man-made drugs were being created in the laboratories as a safer alternative. In 1937, the use of marijuana became illegal when the Marihuana Tax Act was passed (Mathre 50). The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 was passed to officially mark marijuana as an illicit drug. Ironically, at this time two new medical discoveries were made. The first one was using marijuana in the treatment for glaucoma, and the second one was the ease it provided for cancer patients.

This next portion of my paper will detail the medicinal benefits of marijuana usage. Marijuana has been shown to be beneficial in patients suffering from the eye condition known as glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of diseases characterized by the triad of elevated intraocular pressure, optic nerve injury, and visual loss (Grinspoon 40). It is very prevalent today and is an important cause of blindness in all populations. Glaucoma is more common in older patients and in certain ethnic groups. Today glaucoma is treated with eye drops containing beta-blockers, which inhibit the activity of epinephrine (Grinspoon 40). These drops are highly effective, but they may create some serious side effects. Some of the side effects include: depression, slower heart rate, and an increase in the risk of heart failure. Based on research by the University of California at Los Angeles, it was concluded that the use of marijuana was more useful than conventional medications when treating glaucoma, and it probably works by means of a different mechanism (Grinspoon 41). Surveys were given to glaucoma patients, and they reported that they all preferred smoking marijuana instead of paying for the expensive medication that basically had the same result.

Cancer chemotherapy is one of the most developed treatments utilized during the past few decades in an effort to combat this fatal disease. Chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells, but unfortunately, it also attacks and destroys the healthy body cells. Chemotherapy can be an extremely dangerous balancing act in an effort to gain control of the cancer. Some of the side effects of using chemotherapy include deafness, life-threatening kidney failure, bleeding and bruising, destruction of heart muscle, skin erosion, hair loss, and may sometimes even cause a second type of cancer (Grinspoon 24). Many cancer patients agree that the side effects of chemotherapy are actually worse than the cancer itself. In Marihuana, the forbidden medicine, it states that the use of marijuana was effective in reducing nausea and vomiting. Based on surveys of randomly selected cancer patients, they would rather smoke marijuana then be subjected to chemotherapy (Grinspoon 39). Chemotherapy patients also suffer when taking oral medication that accompanies the chemotherapy treatment. . When marijuana is taken with these ordinarily painful medications, it has been known to suppress and even eliminate the side effects. This allows the patients to sustain the treatment. It also helps them physically to expedite the healing process. Cancer will consume the weakened patient. However, a strong patient can achieve remission.

AIDS is the second most deadly disease that affects the world population. One of the main problems with combating AIDS is that the treatment is very expensive. There is no known cure yet. It has only been in the last few years that patients have admitted having the disease instead of suffering in silence. Victims like Ryan White gave this disease dignity and people began donating money to find the cure. Previously, AIDS patients were treated with expensive therapy. Now, however, marijuana is used currently on some AIDS patients. Studies of smoked marijuana on healthy volunteers showed that it increased their appetite and they gained weight (Mathre 86). The positive thing is that there aren’t any serious side effects for AIDS patient who smoke marijuana. Its usage isn’t a life-threatening treatment, and it can be quickly reversed when the drug is discontinued.

There have been several arguments presented for the use of legalizing marijuana for compassionate usage. States have been placing referendums on the ballots, and the United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether marijuana can be distributed for medicinal uses to seriously ill patients, a case that is pitting the federal government against a California cannabis club. The court’s decision to hear the case marked the latest development in a conflict between federal narcotic laws, which prohibit the distribution of marijuana, and a 1996 California voter’s initiative known as Proposition 215. The California initiative allows seriously ill patients to grow and use marijuana for pain relief as long as they have a doctor’s recommendation. Similar measures have been adopted in a number of other states.

The high court agreed to hear a U.S. Justice Department appeal of a ruling that would allow marijuana clubs to resume service for patients who can prove that cannabis was a medical necessity. In 1998, the Justice Department won an injunction from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco prohibiting the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative and other similar medicinal marijuana clubs from distributing marijuana. The Oakland club openly distributed marijuana to numerous members on May 21, 1998. Breyer rejected the club’s request to modify his injunction to allow marijuana for seriously ill patients. A U.S. appeals court, however, agreed with the club last year. The court said Breyer failed to give enough serious consideration to the possibility that cannabis was a necessary treatment for patients served by the club, and that medical necessity could be a defense to a charge of distributing drugs in violation of a federal law, the Controlled Substances Act. Two months later, Breyer said the club could give marijuana to sick people with serious medical conditions and for whom legal alternatives to marijuana do not work or cause intolerable side effects. The Justice Department got the Supreme Court to issue a Stay of Breyer’s order, and also appealed to the Supreme Court by declaring that the case presented “an issue of exceptional and continuing importance” (Reuters). The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case next year, and a decision is expected by the end of June 2001.

The legalization of marijuana has become a major issue, and the number of supporters and opponents seems to be equally divided. As stated previously, many physicians feel that marijuana is helpful in the treatment of AIDS, glaucoma, and cancer treatment. They also feel it is helpful for the treatment of arthritis, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis and spasticity. Proponents want this law supported so that the drug can be legally regulated. People who really need it can get it and use it without being criminally prosecuted. With the enactment of this law, physicians would also be protected if they should recommend marijuana to their patients. Physicians are given more scrutiny as to why they prescribe this drug to patients. The law would give physicians a right to consider marijuana as an option without being criminally prosecuted. Another strong supporting statement is that if doctors are allowed to prescribe morphine and codeine, why can’t they prescribe marijuana as well.

Opponents of enacting legislation claim that prescribing marijuana does not require a written prescription. It also does not have an age limit for utilizing the drug. Another argument is that the Federal Drug Agency did not approve of this drug and that will provide no protection for consumers. The main argument from opponents to this law is that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is already available prescription in the form of Marinol. Therefore, they feel that there is no need for marijuana to be legalized. Opponents also believe that legalizing the drug will mislead children into thinking that smoking marijuana is safe and healthy. They maintain that passing this law allows the cultivation of marijuana anywhere and that it is not a responsible medication. Another major factor for opposing this law is that they feel it will create a loophole for drug users and growers who will not face criminal prosecution.

After researching all of the topics covered in this paper, I have come to the personal conclusion that marijuana has been shown to be a safe and effective medicine. Marijuana should be legalized in order to help people who suffer from terminal diseases such as AIDS and cancer. It should also be readily supplied for glaucoma patients. The prohibition of marijuana over the past few decades hasn’t diminished the demand of the drug in the United States. I am very surprised that in a country as advanced as the United States, people who are deathly ill cannot legally obtain the medicine that will provide them with some relief from their suffering. Marijuana is the only drug that can actually be given to patients and not cause serious side effects. It is also a less expensive means of treatment. In my point of view, if the United States government regulated the use of marijuana, it would be a very successful step. If the doctors prescribed marijuana for certain patients, and if the rules for usage of the drug were very strict, there would not be any misuse of the drug. Marijuana is also very cheap to produce, and more people could afford this drug instead of being subjected to high-tech treatments that don’t always work. It is easier to administer, and the results are often much faster. It would be a tremendous advantage if patients were allowed to smoke marijuana. Marijuana should not be an illicit drug; it should be legalized for medical purposes only.


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