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Medicinal Marijuana Essay, Research Paper

Marijuana, pot, Mary Jane, grass, weed, hash, hashish, dope, cannabis, sinsemilla, greens. When you hear these words, do you think of illegal substances or medical miracle-workers? Marijuana has been approved for medical use by prescription in at least three states. In November 1998, voters in Washington DC won the right for medicinal marijuana. However, the results have been kept secret by congressional order. This research report will give you the facts about marijuana to help you make up your mind. What Is Marijuana and How Is It Used?The scientific name of marijuana is Cannabis sativa. The drug is made of chopped leaves, stems, and flowers of the hemp plant. It is grown in hot, moist climates, such as the Southern United States, where it was grown on plantations decades ago. It also grows in Mexico, the Middle East, Africa and India. Marijuana s primary intoxicant is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. There is usually less than .5% THC in American-grown marijuana. Cannabis from Jamaica, Columbia and Mexico has .5 to .7% THC in it. Sinsemilla (the Spanish word for without seed ) is made from the unpollinated female cannabis plant and can have 20% THC in it. There can be as much as 50% THC in hash, a more concentrated form of marijuana. Thai sticks are from Southeast Asia. They are made of buds from the plant and are bound into short sections of bamboo. Homegrown marijuana is inexpensive and fairly easy to grow. Nonetheless, fungi, because of improper pesticide, herbicide, fungicide or insecticide use, can overrun homegrown marijuana. A common fungus on marijuana is Aspergillus. It has been found that baking marijuana can rid the fungus without affecting the THC factor. There are 400 chemicals in crude marijuana. The number increases to 2,000 when it is smoked. Some of these chemicals are stored in the fatty tissues of the brain, lungs and reproductive organs, where they can stay for four to six weeks. The chemicals in smoked marijuana are lipid soluble, and the nerve cell membrane is lipid, therefore marijuana enters the nerve cells and stays there longer than alcohol would. These chemicals, upon entering the body, go from the lungs to the blood stream to disperse through the body. Marijuana causes the heart rate to quicken. This may be because it causes an increase of the hormone epinephrine, which stimulates the heart. The effects can last for three to five hours. About one-third of THC is eliminated through urination, and two-thirds through excretion. Using a urine drug screen test, cannabinoids can be detected weeks or even months after use. This is because THC accumulates in fatty tissues. Physical effects of marijuana include reddened eyes and happiness or giddiness. After smoking, driving skills are impaired for around 10 hours, and flying skills for 24. Long term marijuana use can, in some cases, lead to dependency. Dependent users crave marijuana and need more of it to have the same effect of being high. If they don t use it, they go into withdrawal. In withdrawal, one may experience restlessness, irritability, insomnia, nausea, cramping, and sleep electroencephalogram disturbance (the disturbance of the electric brain waves). It also produces impaired learning abilities, reduced attention span, lowered problem-solving skills and lowered reading comprehension. In males, testosterone levels and sperm count are lowered. Menstrual irregularity and lessened fertility occur in females. Marijuana reduces immune response. It also produces weight loss, chills, insomnia, restlessness and irritability. In HIV and AIDS sufferers, marijuana and cocaine uses are associated with an increase in the risk of bacterial pneumonia. Pneumonia is one of the leading killers of immune deficient people. Marijuana has psychological effects, too. Smokers lose interest and ambition. They can be dull, depressed, and have low self-esteem. Also, they have temporary memory loss and no motivation. In a 1990 Swedish study, it was found that marijuana smokers who had smoked 100 times or more were 2.3 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than non-users. Also, higher doses of marijuana showed changes in brain waves, or EEG, that lasted for four to five days. A woman named Ann, who was in a group that weekly did drugs while listening to music, accounted, I remember one young man who was paranoid. Though, for awhile, he would be right in with all the rest of us, but then he would get very paranoid under the influence of marijuana. Marijuana can be used as an intoxicant in various ways. It can be smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes or in pipes. Hashish is in the shape of a bar of soap. Pieces are broken off and used in a pipe or water pipe, or crumbled and smoked with marijuana. Hemp, the plant marijuana is derived from, has be used for making cloth, clothing and rope. Scientists are also hoping to make insulation and inexpensive oil from it. Tobacco, marijuana, drinking and adolescent pregnancy lead to higher rates of difficulties related to school, conflicts at home, depression, low religiosity, lower parental influence and earlier sexual experiences. They also are associated with binge drinking, earlier smoking, and have friends who use marijuana, alcohol and tobacco.In 1992, 22% of high school seniors used marijuana. Also in 1992, a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that the total number of marijuana users was 67,525,000 people, comprised of 29,994,000 women and 37,531,000 men. Of the 86 million emergency room visits in 1994, only .02%, or 1 out of every 4300 cases, even mentioned marijuana use. Religious Use Marijuana is used in many religious practices. On certain holidays, devout Hindu men drink bhang, which is a cannabis-milk concoction, to bring them closer to Shiva. The Ethiopian Zionist Coptic Church also uses marijuana in religious routines. At Stephan s Farm, in Tennessee, the largest religious community in America uses the drug for customs, too. The Rastafarians have been granted a court ruling to allow for the use of marijuana in their religious ceremonies. Prenatal Marijuana UseIn the study used for the following information about prenatal marijuana and the effects on the size of offspring, eighteen percent of the adolescents in the study used marijuana during pregnancy and about eighty-four percent of those stopped smoking in the first trimester of pregnancy. Around seven percent started smoking after their first trimester. Seven percent decreased the quantity of marijuana and about two percent increased between the first and third trimesters.Women who smoke marijuana five or more times per week while pregnant deliver babies preterm by an average of 1 week. Newborns of smoking white women have lower birth weights than of non-using white women. Marijuana also had a slight effect on birth length. There was a reported increase of minor physical abnormalities. Exposure of marijuana to unborn babies is show to have affects on sleep patterns. While still in the womb, the babies acoustic cries were different than those not exposed to marijuana. The exposure increases startles, tremors and sleep disruptions in sleeping newborns. Infants have significantly lower sleep efficiency and more frequent arousals at night. Disturbed sleep in children is shown to impair attention focus and emotional and behavioral difficulties. Chronic sleep problems show similar characteristics as attention deficit disorder. Prenatal exposure of marijuana is also shown to impair physical and mental development, including visual responsiveness. At 48 months of age, cognitive function is damaged. In IQ levels, there are significant differences at age three between babies exposed to marijuana and those not. In children ages six to nine, visual-perceptual skills, language proficiency and general behavior are harmed. The History of Marijuana Marijuana has been used as a medicine and intoxicant for thousands of years. It has been accounted that it was used in China 2,000 years ago for a number of disorders and problems. Marijuana was also used in India before the tenth century. It was used in the mid-nineteenth century for asthma, insomnia, dysmenorrhea and convulsions. In 1913, Sir William Osier, one of the time s most respected physicians, recommended marijuana, or Indian hemp, as it was called at that time, for migraines. In 1937, when marijuana was prohibited, there were about 55,000 smokers nationwide. Until the 1960s, almost all jazz musicians and urban minority groups, particularly the Mexican-Americans who lived in the Southwest, regularly used marijuana. In 1979, 68% of people aged 18 to 25 and 31% of people aged 13 to 17 had used marijuana once.Scientific Views In 1988, Francis L. Young, the Drug Enforcement Agency s chief administrative law judge, called marijuana, one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. In May 1991, an informal survey was conducted at Harvard University. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would prescribe marijuana as a medicine if it were legal. A smaller percentage of them said they had already recommended marijuana to their patients to help with nausea as an effect of chemotherapy. Dan Quail, Vice President under President George Bush, testified, …to put it bluntly, there is no scientific evidence that marijuana…is safe or effective. Jerome Kassires, Editor-in-Chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, said, What really counts for a therapy with this kind of safety margin is whether a seriously ill patient feels relief as a result of the intervention, not whether a controlled trial proves its efficiency. Lester Grinspoon, a Harvard psychiatrist, attested, …marijuana is a relatively safe intoxicant that is not addicting, does not in and of itself lead to the use of harder drugs, is not criminogenic, and does not lead to sexual excess, and the evidence that it may lead to personality deterioration is quite unconvincing

A pamphlet by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, entitled For Parents Only: What You Need to Know About Marijuana, printed, Marijuana does not directly cause mental problems, but like many other drugs, it appears to bring to the surface emotional problems and can trigger more severe disorders, particularly schizophrenia…There is little evidence that the drug is physically addicting…There is nothing in marijuana itself that causes people to use other drugs…No definitive, neurological study of humans has turned up evidence so far that marijuana can cause cancer in humans. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in a 1996 study, found that marijuana intoxicates drivers in no way unusual compared to many medicinal drugs. As compared with alcohol, the NHTSA has decided that marijuana users appear to produce greater caution when driving. This is because they are more aware of their state and are able to compensate for it. Also, the NHTSA stated, There was no indication that marijuana by itself was a cause of fatal accidents. Joseph Califano, the former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, says that he wouldn t deny cannabis to cancer or AIDS patients but compares pot smoking to a game in which players face a one in six chance of sudden death.Positive Medical Use Cannabinoids can be used as analgesics, anti-emetics, antispasmodics, appetite stimulants, and as treatment for cancer, glaucoma, strokes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, paraplegia and quadriplegia. They can also assist with arthritis, chronic pain, depression, muscle spasms, menstrual cramps, labor pains, asthma and insomnia. In a Brown University study using lab rats, the area of the brain associated with pain was stimulated. The brain produced a chemical similar to the chemicals in cannabinoids, including marijuana. Therefore, marijuana can have the same effect and the body s natural painkillers. Also in lab rats, compounds in THC and cannabidiol prevent excess glutamate to be secreted after a stroke. The toxic glutamate is shown to kill brain cells. Some scientists think the compounds may actually protect the fragile brain cells from further harm.In HIV and AIDS patients, THC assists in weight gain and reduces vomiting and nausea. Because there are very few cannabinoid receptors in the brain stem, marijuana can be used in high doses and still will not suppress respiration. THC increases the respiratory rate and opens the bronchial airways, for easier breathing. Scientists at the University of California Los Angeles have said that smoking marijuana one to three times daily has the same effect of smoking five times as many cigarettes. However, it has also been stated that marijuana smoke is four times more harmful to the body than cigarette smoke. Smoked marijuana, oral THC and some synthetic cannabinoids decrease pressure within the eye, providing relief for glaucoma sufferers. Tetrahydrocannabinol is said to reduce the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. Because the patient is suffering from nausea, he might not be able to swallow the THC pill. Roger Pertwee, President of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, who works at the University of Aberdeen, is planning a trial of THC suppositories for multiple sclerosis patients. Researchers are now looking into the manufacturing of THC nasal sprays, skin patches and inhalers. Women who have taken marijuana to help lessen labor pains testify that it works better than conventional drugs. One study of the matter found that babies of mothers who took marijuana during labor have superior psycho-motor skills and are more alert at birth.In 1990, about 100,000 doses of Marinol, a synthetic THC, were prescribed. Also in 1990, 34 people were prescribed marijuana cigarettes that were hand rolled in Mississippi by government workers. Negative Medical Effects Many of the negative effects of marijuana are based on the event in which it is smoked. It is hard to prove if marijuana smoke causes cancer because many people who use marijuana also smoke cigarettes. It is hypothesized that marijuana smoke, like other smoke, inflames the lungs and impairs pulmonary (lung) function. Hazardous effects include bronchitis, coughing and chest pain.Marinol, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1985, can cost up to one thousand dollars a week. THC in its pure form can be too much for weak stomachs, giving the patient a powerful, yet unpleasant feeling. THC can cause damage to the trachea, or windpipe, and the major bronchia. It also may decrease the bronchial airways. However, contradictory evidence was stated earlier.THC reduces leucine, uridine and thymidine uptake, which lowers protein and RNA (ribonucleic acid) synthesis. The proteins and RNA are needed in cell reproduction. The production of lymphocytes, which are important in the process of antibody creation, is reduced due to the exposure to THC and cannabinoids. Because the production of lymphocytes is lowered, then so is the production of antibodies. Less antibodies means lower immunity, opening the weakened body to invaders. In short, cannabinoids are said to have an immunosuppressive action.In two out of three subjects who smoked street marijuana, T-cell rosette formation and impaired blastogenesis occurred. T-cell rosette formation is the forming of T-cells in the shape of a rose, or circle. Blastogenesis is the form of asexual reproduction that T-cells undergo.In another study, five out of six subjects had impaired rosette formation. However, in four of the five, the formation returned to normal within 24 hours. A group of monkeys were exposed to three different levels of marijuana over a period of six months. At the end of the study, many had lowered plasma immunoglobulins, which are proteins with antibody activity. In a study with ten participants that lasted four weeks, T-cell rosette formation and lymphocyte function were impaired, but the changes were reversed quickly. The primary immune response of lab rats that were given 10 mg of THC decreased by 35-40%. The inductive phase of response was lowered 48-78%, and the productive, 26-59%.On glass plates, the spreading of macrophages, large cells which kill harmful cells, can be easily seen. When THC is added, the spreading is inhibited.THC also impairs the ability for living cells to uptake solid particles, or phagocytosis. Doctors often warn patients with AIDS to avoid marijuana because of their reduced immunity and marijuana s ability to further lower the body s defense system. In older patients with coronary artery disease, hypertension and cerebrovascular disease, marijuana can cause the heart rate to increase. This, in turn, greatens myocardial demand and cardiac output by as much as 30%. Altogether, this can increase the risk of angina. Personal Encounters Christy Mata, whose late mother took Marinol, a synthetic marijuana treatment, advocated it, saying that it increased her mother s appetite and, gave her an overall sense of well-being. Low, a Puerto-Rican who lives in the Spanish Harlem of New York City, stated, We used to get seven joints for one dollar. A package of 25 cost two dollars. He also explained the money dealers made. …one guy would buy a pound and he d make joints out of it, a thousand joints. A pound used to cost about fifteen dollars, and he d make about 150 dollars on a pound. Ann, a Russian Jew, lived in Harlem in the 1930s. She remembers, But it was very cheap. It was already rolled, and it was like five for a dollar. A woman suffering from glaucoma, Elvy Muskiia, said of synthetic cannabinoids, I think for the pharmaceutical companies to think they produce a better product than God is totally presumptuous. Laws Concerning Marijuana In 1937, the federal government prohibited marijuana. Before the prohibition, a cigarette cost about thirty cents. Sometime before 1989, a program was established that granted permits to doctors to prescribe marijuana. The program was banished in 1992, but the 8 permit-holders can still exercise their rights. Before California, Oregon and Arizona established laws to allow prescriptions of the kind, the 8 permit holders were the only legal prescribers. In a 1995 poll by American Civil Liberties Union, 85% of the population surveyed believed that marijuana should be legalized. California s Proposition 215 says, Patients or defined caregivers, who possess or cultivate marijuana for medicinal treatment recommended by a physician, are exempt from general provision or law which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation of marijuana. The California and Arizona propositions were opposed by the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, National Multiple Sclerosis Association and American Academy of Ophthalmology. Fifty-six percent of California voters put Proposition 215 into effect, and 65% of voters put a similar law into effect in Arizona. Under Proposition 215, about 13,000 of California s five million marijuana users qualify to grow their own marijuana. If marijuana is legalized, millions of dollars in grants for scientific research will be revoked. The price of marijuana will lower, usage will increase, new jobs will be created and there will be a new tax supplier for the government. Oklahoma arthritis sufferer Will Foster is serving a 93-year sentence for his first offense of growing marijuana. In Merced, California, Mike Osborn grew marijuana for seven AIDS and cancer patients. He will serve a 13-year sentence. Seattle s Martin Martinez is also serving a 90-day sentence for growing. Marijuana is a very controversial drug. Its medical implications could change the world of science as we know it. Its harmfulness to the body and society may never change. Without legalization, we are allowing people to suffer and die in pain. With it, we are permitting legal drug abuse that could cause chaos. The choice is yours.


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