Should Medical Marijuana Be Le Essay, Research Paper
Marijuana is an illegal drug with many medical uses and should be made legal for those patients who need it. There are many valuable medical uses for marijuana not recognized by the Federal Government. Though some states have legalized its use for patients with the permission of their physician, it remains at large an illegal Schedule I drug.
There are many medical uses of marijuana but while it is still an illegal drug the patients trying to reap its benefits must break federal laws. Marijuana is effective in lowering the internal eye pressure associated with glaucoma and slowing the onset of blindness in these patients. It can reduce the pain of AIDS patients and stimulate the appetites of those suffering from malnutrition because of AIDS wasting syndrome. Marijuana has many other uses such as alleviating muscle spasticity, anorexia, asthma, nausea, peptic ulcers, alcoholism, depression, migraine, anxiety, inflammation, hypertension, insomnia, and many other uses for cancer patients. “Marijuana has been found useful as an anticonvulsant, a muscle relaxant in spastic disorders, as an appetite stimulant in the wasting syndrome of human immunodeficiency virus infection and is also useful for relieving phantom limb pain and menstrual cramps. It has also been helpful in treating glaucoma, nausea from chemotherapy in cancer patients, epilepsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and spinal fluid injuries.”(5) Marijuana has many uses and should be legalized for use by patients who need it.
California has legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes under the consent of a physician which is called Proposition 215. Tom Morganthau is against this legalization under Proposition 215 and he says:
“What we have here, thanks to the voters of California and Arizona, is a nightmare for drug warriors everywhere – and a small but potentially significant breach in the national resolve against drugs. Earnest appeals by McCaffrey and many others have failed to stop these slippery proposals at the ballot box. And it is time for clear leadership from the top – from Bill Clinton, the man who didn’t inhale.”(3)
Proposition 215 permits smoking pot for almost any complaint if there is simply an oral recommendation from their physician. This makes legally smoking it in California fairly easy. This proposition changes state law to allow people to grow and possess marijuana for medical use when there is a recommendation by a physician. This recommendation may be oral or written. Smoking and possessing marijuana is allowed if a physician determines a person would benefit from use of it in “treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or ‘any other illness for which marijuana provides relief’.”(7) The law states that patients who receive marijuana must be over fifteen years old and have marijuana experience and for the pill that contains the main ingredient in marijuana, THC, the patients must be at least five years old. These patients must use the marijuana on an inpatient basis and be receiving rarely used and severe form of chemotherapy. Even with this discrimination against who is to get the drug, the study consistently found marijuana to be effective in stopping vomiting. Some say that Proposition 215 allows marijuana to be grown anywhere and to be in unlimited quantities. This is not true because it does not allow unlimited quantities, rather is only allows marijuana to be grown for patients personal use and only with the recommendation of a physician. Patients as well as non patients will be arrested if they are caught trying to sell marijuana. Those who take care of a patient who is permitted to smoke marijuana are allowed to possess and grow the drug for the patient. Proposition 215 benefits the patients in California who needed marijuana to better their medical condition.
Not all legalization of marijuana for medicine is for the patients. A previous director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told Emory University students that NORML would use the issue of medicinal marijuana to divert the publics thoughts of the drug and give it a good name to lead to its total legalization. Pro-legalization organizations have admitted that their strategy to legalize marijuana begins with legitimizing smoking marijuana as a medicine. As reported in High Times Magazine, the Director of NORML expressly stated that the medicinal use of marijuana is an integral part of the strategy to legalize marijuana. (12) The main idea of Proposition 215 is to make marijuana available to those inpatients needing it but John Leo s opinion is different in his article The Voters go to Pot in October 28, 1996 issue of U.S. News & World Report. He says …the wording of the proposition gives the game away: Growing and using marijuana would be approved for a list of ailments, including chronic pain, arthritis, migraine, and any other illness for which marijuana provides relief . (16) Not all the attempts to legalize marijuana for medicine are in the interests of the patients but that should not stop making it available to those who need it to help cope with an illness because there will always be illegal use to some degree.
There is research against the use of marijuana saying that it is not suitable for use as a medicine. The National Institute of Health examined all the existing clinical evidence about smoked marijuana and concluded: There is no scientifically sound evidence that smoked marijuana is medically superior to current available therapies. (1) The National Institute of Health also concluded that smoking is not a safe or a more effective treatment than Marinol, a synthetic THC pill, or other Federal Drug Administration approved drugs for those with AIDS, cancer, or glaucoma. There is no reliable scientific study that shows marijuana to be a safe and effective drug says one study. Consumers are protected from unsafe and impure drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This initiative makes marijuana available to the public without FDA approval or regulation. Quality, purity and strength of the drug would be unregulated. There are no rules restricting the amount a person can smoke or how often they smoke it. (9) This research against the legalization of marijuana is vague and should in no way hinder the speed at which the drug becomes legal for medicinal purposes.
To try to make marijuana seem worse than it is Drug Czar Lee Brown intentionally misrepresented a survey that the chairman of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Joseph Califano, conducted by saying that ninety one percent of the population blames illegal drug and alcohol abuse for the rate of violent crime that we have in America today. (11) Later Califano said in an issue of Forbes Media Critic that marijuana has not been associated with a high level of violence. (11) Once again Brown led the media to believe that marijuana was horrible by announcing marijuana sends virtually the same numbers to the emergency room as cocaine. (11) This number comes from DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network) but is false. DAWN says that over eighty percent of marijuana cases in the emergency room are in conjunction with problems associated with alcohol, cocaine, or some other drug.
There has been studies showing that marijuana has a medical value and that it should be allowed to be prescribed by doctors as a form of medicine to relieve the symptoms of their particular illness. In one study it was found that both smoking marijuana and ingesting the THC capsules are very effective in stopping vomiting. They also found no significant differences in success rates by age group. In this study it was concluded that the major reason for smoking failure was due to smoking intolerance; while the major reason for the THC capsule failure was because of nausea and vomiting were so severe that the patients could not keep the capsule down. The study concluded that marijuana was not only an effective antiemetic but also far superior to the best available conventional drug, Compazine, and clearly superior to the synthetic THC pill. (15) More than ninety percent of patients who used marijuana reported significant or total relief from nausea and vomiting. A study performed in New Mexico stated: The 1984 report concluded…the data accumulated over all five years of the program s operation do show that marijuana smoked resulted in a higher percentage of success than does THC ingested. (15) Of all the studies performed there were few serious side effects. The most common was increased appetite, which is considered positive, reported by thirty two point three percent of patients. The most common negative effects were sleepiness reported by twenty one percent of the patients and a sore throat reported by thirteen percent of the patients. Marijuana has been proven to have medical value and therefore should be legalized for use by the ill.
Marinol is a synthetic form of the main ingredient in marijuana, THC. The Federal Government recognized the medical use of THC because:
In 1985 the government did recognize that the principal active ingredient in marijuana – delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC – has medical use. A synthetic drug containing THC is now available by prescription under the name Marinol, manufactured by Unimed Pharmaceuticals. Why does the Government allow THC pills but not marijuana joints? THC has been put through a level of testing acceptable to the Food and Drug Administration. (13)
The Food and Drug Administration has approved Marinol which has the same active ingredient as marijuana. This THC pill, called Marinol, has had more research performed on it than marijuana. It contains pure delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in sesame seed oil and is now a Schedule II drug of the Controlled Substances Act which means that it is recognized as having medicinal value. It is effective as the patients have claimed but does have side effects. Seventy percent of patients found relief of nausea and significant weight gains when using the THC pill but twenty percent of the patients consuming it did not like the psychoactive effect of the synthetic THC. Marinol does work but not on all patients and is preferred by very few as compared to smoked marijuana.
When weighing the effects of the synthetic THC pill, Marinol, against smoking marijuana patients found that the smoking worked better for them. Patients like marijuana better than the THC pill because they have more control and a quicker response with smoked marijuana than with oral THC. It was hard for patients to swallow the pill when they are nauseous and they could limit the amount needed when smoked. The THC pill was more psychoactive, erratic, and unpredictable therefore less desirable to use than smoking marijuana. Fifty six patients showed no improvement with standard antiemetics but when they used marijuana, seventy eight percent demonstrated a positive response and showed no serious negative side effect (posted in Oct. 1988 New York State Journal of Medicine). The Federal Government says to take Marinol, a synthetic substitute that can cost up to thirty thousand dollars a year and is often less reliable and effective but it has been proven that smoked THC is more reliable than oral THC in achieving therapeutic blood concentrations. Published in the 1988 New York State Journal of Medicine it said that twenty nine percent of those not responsive to oral THC did respond to smoked marijuana. Ninety eight point four percent of AIDS patients are aware of the medical use of marijuana and of those thirty six point nine have used marijuana as an antiemetic. Of the thirty six point nine percent of AIDS patients who have used marijuana eighty percent preferred it over prescription drugs including synthetic THC. This evidence shows that smoked THC is superior to oral THC and should be legalized under the consent of a physician.
Besides there being factual studies for the legalization of marijuana there are arguments testifying the need for legalized medical marijuana. Recovered cancer patient James Canter can vouch for marijuana s medical value:
Ten years ago, I nearly died from testicular cancer that spread into my lungs. Chemotherapy made me sick and nauseous. The standard drug, like Marinol, did not help. Marijuana blocked the nausea. As a result, I was able to continue the chemotherapy treatments. Today, I have beaten the cancer, and no longer smoke marijuana. I credit marijuana as part of the treatment that saved my life. (10)
Physicians are allowed to prescribe powerful drugs like morphine and codeine. It does not make since that they can not prescribe marijuana too. (8) Some people say that legalizing marijuana will make it hard to convince young people to stay drug free and that it will send a false message that marijuana is safe and healthy; But how? A bald-headed cancer patient lounging by an IV pole is not an image of cool. (17)
Along with the arguments for the legalization of marijuana there is arguments against the legalization but they do not carry much weight. One argument is that marijuana has not been tested thoroughly but that is only because the Government gives scientists the runaround about receiving the marijuana to be tested. Their excuse is that if they supply marijuana to the scientists then the NIDA may be overwhelmed by requests from other researchers which basically leads to the conclusion that the government does not want the research to be done for fear it will find something else to back the legalization. Another argument is that the main active ingredient, THC, is legally available in the form of a pill called Marinol but the pill is expensive and causes higher levels of anxiety and depression and patient testaments show that smoked marijuana is preferred. Anyone wishing to use pot legally would need only an oral recommendation from any doctor who has determined that the person s health would benefit from it. Nobody has to read this twice to figure out that Proposition 215 would make legal pot only slightly harder to get than Advil. (16) Some say that it will provide loopholes for drug dealers to avoid arrest and prosecution. Proposition 215 legalizes marijuana use for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief . This could include stress, headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, a stiff neck…or just about anything. (9) These arguments should not be held in context against legalizing marijuana because they hold no weight against the benefits of smoking marijuana.
Doctors do see the medical use of marijuana and many would recommend it or have recommended it to patients. Dr. Marcus Conant says I have seen hundreds of AIDS and cancer patients who are losing weight derive almost immediate relief from smoking marijuana, even after other weight-gain treatments – such as hormone treatments or feeding tubes – have failed. (2) Dr. John Morgan of CUNY Medical School says: There is no rule that says drugs must be the best at what it does to warrant approval. If it is effective in even a small number of cases, it deserves serious attention as a therapeutic product. (13) Forty eight percent of cancer specialists said they would prescribe marijuana to some of their patients if it were legal. Of all cancer specialists forty four percent said that they have recommended the illegal use of marijuana to patients for control of nausea and vomiting. If these doctors recognize the medical ability of marijuana and some have even recommended it or would recommend it to patients if it were legal then it should be legalized because who knows what is best for patients than their doctors.
The Federal Government use to issue marijuana to patients but now threatens to take action against physicians who simply recommend it to their patients. In the early 1980’s nearly one thousand patients a year were using marijuana medically under federally approved research programs. In fact, one year California requested one million medical marijuana cigarettes from the FDA. (15) Eight medical patients in the United States are legally prescribed joints for medicine not simply for research programs. Allowing new patients was stopped in 1992 when too many applications came in from other patients who wanted legal joints for their illness. George McMahon is one of the eight who gets marijuana form the Federal Government. He receives three hundred joints a month. McMahon suffers from a neurological disorder called Nail Patella which causes muscle spasms and brittle bones. He has had twenty operations to date and is in constant pain. McMahon says marijuana not only eases pain, it improves his condition, relaxing muscle spasms without the awful side effect that other legal prescription drugs induce. (5) Barb Douglas is also one of the eight who gets marijuana from the Federal Government. She was blind from multiple sclerosis, is now legally blind and she credits marijuana for partial restoration of her sight. (5) The Federal Government obviously recognized the usefulness of marijuana as a medicine before and stopped because too many patients wanted to use it. It is obvious that it should be legalized for medical use.
The Federal Government is against the legalization of any kind of marijuana even solely for medical purposes. The Clinton Administration is discrediting the notion that smoking marijuana had medical benefits. For an administration composed, in part, of former recreational drug users, including President Didn t Inhale , the decision to harass doctors who use the same drugs to treat the sick is unseemly. (17) On December 30,1996 the Federal Government announced their policy that it intends to stop doctors from recommending or prescribing marijuana to their patients and that they are planning a public relations campaign to demonstrate that marijuana has no medical value. This policy states that a doctors action of recommending or prescribing a Schedule I substance is not consistent with the publics interest and will lead to administrative action by Drug Enforcement Administration to revoke the practitioners registration. The prescription-drug licence of doctors who prescribe marijuana has been threatened to be revoked by the Justice Department. An incentive to try to catch violators of these drug laws is the ability to seize valuable property under civil forfeiture has created an incentive to find marijuana cultivation, a possible case of this could have been the reason for the 1992 raid on multimillionaire Donald Scott s estate near Malibu that resulted in his being killed by police officers and no marijuana was found. The past three decades marijuana has been listed as a Schedule I drug by the government meaning it is a substance with no apparent medical value and a high potential for abuse.
The illegal drug marijuana has many medical uses and it should be legalized for those patients who need to use it. It has many medical uses most of which are used to stop vomiting by AIDS and cancer patients going through chemotherapy but it also has medical uses in many other illnesses. Though some states have legalized medical marijuana use by the approval of a physician it still remains against Federal Law to possess or smoke it. Some activists for the legalization of marijuana are doing so on a selfish level hoping to legalize all use not just as a medicine but should still be legalized for the ill people who can use its positive effects. There is research against the use of marijuana as a medicine but that holds no weight against all the promising evidence that it is a positive drug. There is a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, called Marinol but as it is compared to marijuana, Marinol falls short of the effectiveness of smoking the actual marijuana. Doctors testify their belief in the effectiveness by saying that either they have recommended it to patients or would if it were legal and who knows what would be best for your health than your doctor. Still marijuana against Federal Law even though the government use to distribute it to patients in the eighties up until 1992 and remains illegal through today. Something that the government should think about comes from a man named Richard Brookhiser who has metastasized testicular cancer and turned to marijuana to be able to eat. Brookhiser said: God forbid that any policy makers in Washington should go through what I did in 1992. But inevitably some will — and will turn to marijuana for relief. They should extend that same liberty to their fellow citizens.
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http://www.calyx.com/olsen/MEDICAL/IOWA/politics.html. 22 Nov. 1997
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http://vote96.ss.ca.gov/Vote96/html/BP/215analysis.htm. 29 Nov. 1997
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