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Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana: A Pot of Gold or an Error

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana: A Pot of Gold or an Error


Jessica Arthur
Henry Ford Community College

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

Life is full of choices and in some way we all prefer to have alternatives to one
method, style, look or way of thinking; Choice is a large part of freedom. Some requests may be
unreasonable but when it comes to ones health, whether a request is unreasonable or not is
usually up to a physician to decide. When a doctor sees fit to prescribes a newly FDA approved
medication it is their professional liberty, but what if those medications do not work well for a
patient or the patient cannot afford high costing medication? Medical Marijuana is an alternative
that has been around for centuries, presently many healthcare professionals believe it can
potentially be of great use, having three main species of differing potencies that add to the
versatility of its uses, but it is not currently legal to prescribe by federal law (Koch, 1999, p.21).
Even with more states passing legislation allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana for specific
patients, if they use that freedom, a patient chances arrest and a physician risks professional
scrutiny. Legalization of medicinal marijuana should be considered as an alternative to
prescription medication. Due to red tape, Marijuana remains somewhat of a mystery to the
medical field of America, there was only one study approved in 1997 which was the first in 15
years and that even took three years to get started (Koch, 1999, p.15). So without sufficient proof
ridiculous claims by opponents continue to fly. Aside from the political interference, it remains
evident that physician and scientists alike need more choices to generate more treatments and
new methods to help the injured people and terminally ill patients, like those with A.I.D.S. Also,
people with musculoskeletal disorders, Neurological disorders and gastrointestinal disorders can
benefit from marijuana use and are among advocates of legalization for not only direct in-take
but for further research as well (Institute Of Medicine, 1999, p.21).
Marijuana is a very versatile herb; it has over 200 active compounds and over 60
cannabinoids, which are the active compounds Marijuana contains, that are specific only to
Marijuana (Koch, 1999, p.2). The three undisputed species of Marijuana [Cannabis] Sativa,
Indica and Ruderalis; all have the psychoactive chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),
but generally, Indica is the strongest in potency and Ruderalis the weakest (Russo, 2001, p.3).
THC is the main compound, known to have a noticeable effect physiologically and mentally on
those who ingest it. Marijuana is a goldmine for pharmaceutical development and medically a
point of interest for most, due to it containing so many raw materials. Many health journals,
medical associations and periodicals, such as those of neurology, have written over the years
about trials on

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

The positive effects of Marijuana, it was said, Scientists see the potential for
developing a variety of new medicines from among the 200-plus active ingredients in
Cannabis, including more than 60 cannabinoids -- constituents unique to
Marijuana. Researchers are particularly interested in the apparent ability of
Cannabinoids to treat pain and possibly prevent permanent damage from head
Trauma or stroke (Koch, 1999, p.2).
After research, the Institute of Medicine recommended Marijuana for critically ill patients, while
acknowledging that smoking is risky (Koch, 1999, p.1).
Smoking of Marijuana is an obviously dangerous method of intake. Although,
there have been studies by scientists that say there is not a direct correlation between lung cancer
and long-term Marijuana inhalation, most believe the opposite. A study on the association
between lung cancer and Marijuana said, Benzopyrene, a carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbon, is found in both tobacco and marijuana smoke and has been implicated in
mutations related to lung cancer (Crothers, Fiellin, Mehra, Moore & Tetrault, 2006, p.1). In
addition, some say that Marijuana impairs judgment, reaction time and critical thinking ability by
a significant amount, especially in high dosages (Kauert, Moeller, Ramaekers, Ruitenbeek,
Schneider, & Theunissen, 2006). The MayoClinic.com also says long-term use of smoked
Marijuana also can lead to memory reduction, limited attention span, increases the risk of
schizophrenia, paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks and breathing trouble, mouth cancer and larynx
cancer (Marshall, 2005, p.20).
Apart from the directly physically negative side of smoking Marijuana, there is
the claim of potential abuse. Of course, a person can abuse any substance, especially one that has
psychotropic properties. One of the most exhausted claims by opponents of legalizing Marijuana
say, It is a gateway drug that leads to use of harder narcotics (Marshall, 2005, p.3). Contrary to
a substantial body of evidence showing that although most abusers of heavy narcotics began with
marijuana, thousand of Americans used Marijuana and never used any other narcotics. Since
Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it has no medicinal value and is as dangerous as
Heroine and PCP and illegal to prescribe by federal law. For this reason, the government delays
or denies requests for more studies and trials. The IOM [Institute of Medicine] acknowledges,
Most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana usually before they are of
legal age (Marshall, 2005, p.10). Thus, they conclude, There is

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

No conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to
the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs (Marshall, 2005, p.10). In addition, opponents say
that illegal drug use of any type will create dependency and therefore addiction. Mitch
Earleywine of Americans for Safe Access says, Clearly, Cannabis does not belong on Schedule
1. Its addictive potential is right around caffeine's (Marshall, 2005, p.9). Marijuana and
Medicine says that people incorrectly think of tolerance, dependence and withdrawal implying
abuse or addiction. Tolerance and dependence is normal after repeat use of any drug (Institute Of
Medicine, 1999, p.85). This appears to be true, especially since there is a large amount of
prescription drug abuse in America currently.
Opponents of legalization always point out that there are already medications
containing THC, such as Marinol and newly developed Sativex which is absorbed under the
tongue (Marshall, 2005, p.8). Marinol is only available in pill or suppository form so it is not
absorbed as quickly as smoked Marijuana and there is no comparison to vaporized Marijuana.
GW Pharmaceuticals the pharmaceutical company that produces Sativex says, It [Sativex]
offers the full spectrum of marijuana's active ingredients, delivered in a spray. Absorbed under
the tongue, the medication is easier to take than Marinol and faster acting (Marshall, 2005, p.8).
Advocates of legalization argue that Marinol only contains THC, one of the many useful
compounds that Marijuana contains and cost is also an issue, many patients that use Marijuana
find the price of growing it or receiving it from an organization is very affordable. Marinol costs
$300 a bottle and there is no telling how much more Sativex will cost when it is released
(Marshall, 2005, p.8).
In America, there is a problem with illicit use of legal drugs, More than 6 million
Americans abuse prescription drugs, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration,
(American Medical Association, 2006). Anyone can buy prescription medications easily on the
street. Also, many types of medication are used and mixed to create harder narcotics. The
Coalition Against Insurance Fraud said, Nearly 600,000 of Americas drug-related emergencyroom visits in 2005 involved prescription drugsmostly narcotic painkillers. Deaths that
involved prescription opioid analgesics increased from 2,900 in 1999 to at least 7,500 in 2004, an
increase of 160% in just 5 years (U.S. Department Of Health & Human Services, 2008, 8). No
one in known history has ever died from Marijuana use, but opponents of legalization say that

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

more than 100,000 people are hospitalized every year from Marijuana use (Marshall, 2005,
p.20).
Yet, they offer no specific evidence to show that these hospitalizations were not
from Marijuana laced with other narcotics such as PCP, and there is no record of this error
happening through Marijuana distribution facilities sponsored by the government and non-profit
organizations. Growing medicinal Marijuana at facilities such as these is under special
monitoring and the quality is of a high standard and regulated, unlike its homegrown or street
sold counterparts (Marshall, 2005, p.4).
Furthermore, Marijuana and Medicine says, I-tryptophan was widely sold as a
natural remedy for insomnia until early 1990 when it became linked to an epidemic of new and
potentially fatal illnesses (Eosinophilia-Myalgia Syndrome) (Institute Of Medicine, 1999, p.19).
With approval errors by the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry pumping out painkillers
derived from opioids, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, which make Heroine and Cocaine, the
fight against medicinal Marijuana becomes even more perplexing. In different reports, the
American Medical Association House of Delegates, the National Institutes of Health, the British
Medical Association and the World Health Organization all concluded that sufficient evidence
exists to justify clinical trials of smoked marijuana for a variety of symptoms for which it may be
moderately effective (Koch, 1999, p.5).
Again, the IMO found in its report some years ago that issues with the safety of
Marijuana are less important than its benefits and the side effects of cannabinoids are acceptable
compared to other approved medications (Koch, 1999, p.6). The report also said that, while some
people can become addicted, the withdrawal symptoms and setbacks are very minute compared
to other schedule I drugs (Koch, 1999, p.6). The IMO supported the belief that Marijuanas
active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS
wasting and other symptoms and should be rigorously tested in clinical trials(Koch, 1999, p.6).
These finding should have pushed the development of vaporizers and other methods of
administering THC but as of yet they have not. Vaporizers are a good alternative to smoked
marijuana and are very affordable (Koch, 1999, p.8). The debate of legalization, albeit mostly not
scientific, should end with this method, there was a trial done with a specific brand of vaporizer
that showed excellent results.

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

The Volcano vaporizer from Storz & Bickel GmbH & Company in Tuttlingen,
Germany was used and among the findings, professionals stated, we did not measure other
combustion products such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons andoxidant gases, the
Observation of little or no CO exposure suggests little or no exposure to these
other compounds (American Society For Clinical Pharmacology And Therapeutics, 2007, p.5).
This is because the vaporizers do not heat the Marijuana to the point that they burn and create
byproducts that are harmful to the respiratory system. The vaporizer evaporates the active
substances from the plant by using a hot airflow, then, Cannabis placed in the filling chamber
is heated by the device to 1901C (American Society For Clinical Pharmacology And
Therapeutics, 2007, p.5). The vaporized compounds are collected in the inflatable, detachable
bag fitted with a mouthpiece and a one-way valve that allows the vapor to remain in the balloon
until inhalation (American Society For Clinical Pharmacology And Therapeutics, 2007, p.5). It
takes two to three balloon inflations to vaporize a half cigarette using the Volcano. In the trial,
the majority of patients preferred the Volcano, The vaporizer was well tolerated, with no
reported adverse effects. Most subjects preferred the vaporizer compared to smoked marijuana,
supporting its potential for medical therapy (American Society For Clinical Pharmacology And
Therapeutics, 2007, p.5).
These studies give little room to opponents of legalization that carefully focus on
smoked Marijuana when they make their arguments to offset the lack of science (Koch, 1999
p.19). Everyone knows someone who is suffering with complications from a medication and has
no alternative. Also, a person does not need a fact sheet to remember hearing a few large
recalls of FDA approved products annually. There is still hope that patients and physician alike
will have choice in what method of treatment they use. With more states passing legislation
legalizing medicinal Marijuana, one-day the federal government will have to listen to citizens,
Three-quarters of U.S. adults favor legalizing marijuana for medical use, and a recent poll
conducted by AARP found that 72 percent of Americans over 45 favor allowing marijuana to
be used for medical purposes (Marshall, 2005, p.14). The government will have to listen to
medical professionals as well, like the New England Journal of Medicine saying, A federal
policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana to seriously
ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane (Marshall, 2005, p.9). The request for
more research is reasonable, a request often denied, denial based on old evidence and blind

Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

ignorance of scientific fact. There is something that was thought to be harmful in every culture,
that later was found to be a great acquisition. How long will patients have to suffer? Will the only
choice they have in the near future be pain or humiliation?
References
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Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana

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