Medical Marijuana Gaining Support in the United States
How Bad Is Marijuana Really?
In 1972, the US Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act because they considered it to have "no accepted medical use." Since then, 16 of 50 US states and DC have legalized the medical use of marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Michigan, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington. Also, a number of states have decided to decriminalize possesion of marijuana. Most places that have decriminalized cannabis have civil fines, drug education, or drug treatment in place of incarceration and/or criminal charges for possession of small amounts of cannabis, or have made various cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement. The states not included on the previous list which have decriminalized marijuana are: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, North Carolina, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Minnesota.
Gallup's October Crime poll finds 44% of Americans in favor of making marijuana legal and 54% opposed. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25% range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but acceptance jumped to 31% in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout this decade. The highest level of support for decriminalizing the use of marijuana today is seen with self-described liberals, among whom 78% are in favor.
As you can see the public optinion of marijuna in the states has been on the rise the last few years. More and more people are starting to see marajuana as a harmless recreational drug with minimal side effects and potential medical usage. But is this really the case?
Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions. They cite dozens of peer-reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations, major government reports, and the use of marijuana as medicine throughout world history.
Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it is too dangerous to use, lacks FDA-approval, and that various legal drugs make marijuana use unnecessary. They say marijuana is addictive, leads to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability, and injures the lungs, immune system, and brain. They say that medical marijuana is a front for drug legalization and recreational use.
Some Pros and Cons Include:
Physician Perspectives on Marijuana's Medical Use
Pro: "The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS -- or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day." -- Joycelyn Elders, MD Former US Surgeon General Editorial, Providence Journal Mar. 26, 2004
Con: "Although I understand many believe marijuana is the most effective drug in combating their medical ailments, I would caution against this assumption due to the lack of consistent, repeatable scientific data available to prove marijuana's medical benefits. Based on current evidence, I believe that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that there are less dangerous medicines offering the same relief from pain and other medical symptoms." -- Bill Frist, MD Former US Senator (R-TN) Correspondence to ProCon.org Oct. 20, 2003
Addictiveness of Marijuana
Pro: "For some users, perhaps as many as 10 per cent, cannabis leads to psychological dependence, but there is scant evidence that it carries a risk of true addiction. Unlike cigarette smokers, most users do not take the drug on a daily basis, and usually abandon it in their twenties or thirties. Unlike for nicotine, alcohol and hard drugs, there is no clearly defined withdrawal syndrome, the hallmark of true addiction, when use is stopped."
Con: "This study validated several specific effects of marijuana abstinence in heavy marijuana users, and showed they were reliable and clinically significant. These withdrawal effects appear similar in type and magnitude to those observed in studies of nicotine withdrawal Craving for marijuana, decreased appetite, sleep difficulty, and weight loss reliably changed across the smoking and abstinence phases. Aggression, anger, irritability, restlessness, and strange dreams increased significantly during one abstinence phase, but not the other."
Pro: "There is very little evidence that smoking marijuana as a means of taking it represents a significant health risk. Although cannabis has been smoked widely in Western countries for more than four decades, there have been no reported cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana. I suspect that a day's breathing in any city with poor air quality poses more of a threat than inhaling a day's dose -- which for many ailments is just a portion of a joint -- of marijuana." -- Lester Grinspoon, MD Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School "Puffing Is the Best Medicine," Los Angeles Times May 5, 2006
Con: "3-4 Cannabis cigarettes a day are associated with the same evidence of acute and chronic bronchitis and the same degree of damage to the bronchial mucosa as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day. Cannabis smoking is likely to weaken the immune system. Infections of the lung are due to a combination of smoking-related damage to the cells lining the bronchial passage and impairment of the principal immune cells in the small air sacs caused by cannabis." -- British Lung Foundation "Smoking Gun: The Impact of Cannabis Smoking on Respiratory Health," a publicly disseminated report Nov. 2002
Medical Marijuana for the Terminally ill
Pro "Consumer Reports believes that, for patients with advanced AIDS and terminal cancer, the apparent benefits some derive from smoking marijuana outweigh any substantiated or even suspected risks. In the same spirit the FDA uses to hasten the approval of cancer drugs, federal laws should be relaxed in favor of states' rights to allow physicians to administer marijuana to their patients on a caring and compassionate basis." -- Consumer Reports Editorial May 1997
Con "The use of marijuana [for the terminally ill] can no longer be considered a therapeutic intervention but one of several procedures used to ease the ebbing of life of the terminally ill. But for this purpose doctors should prescribe antiemetic and analgesic therapies of proven efficacy, rather than marijuana smoking. This therapeutic course is not based on bureaucratic absolutism, political correctness, or reflexive ideology - but on scientific knowledge and the humane practice of medicine." -- Gabriel Nahas, MD, PhD Editorial, Wall Street Journal Mar. 1997
Medical Marijuana Debate and Its Effect on Youth Drug Use
Pro: "While it is not possible with existing data to determine conclusively that state medical marijuana laws caused the documented declines in adolescent marijuana use, the overwhelming downward trend strongly suggests that the effect of state medical marijuana laws on teen marijuana use has been either neutral or positive, discouraging youthful experimentation with the drug." --Karen O’Keefe, Esq. Attorney & Legislative Analyst, Marijuana Policy Project Report, "Marijuana Use by Young People: The Impact of State Medical Marijuana Laws" Sep. 2005
Con: "By characterizing the use of illegal drugs as quasi-legal, state-sanctioned, Saturday afternoon fun, legalizers destabilize the societal norm that drug use is dangerous. They undercut the goals of stopping the initiation of drug use to prevent addiction.... Children entering drug abuse treatment routinely report that they heard that 'pot is medicine' and, therefore, believed it to be good for them." -- Andrea Barthwell, MD Former Deputy Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Chicago Tribune editorial Feb. 17, 2004
Ultimately as everything eventually does this issue boils down to money and politics. Will it gain enough support to require a major party to push for marijuana legalization?
And will it generate revenue for the government, create jobs, and stimulate the economy?
As you can see public opinion is split with mainly liberal Democrats on the East and West coasts supporting legalization, and conservative Republicans in the South and Mid-West remaining opposed.
Through federal regulation, marijuana use can be made safe and profitable for all involved parties. It would benefit the economy by adding revenue and tax money, it would benefit those who need medical relief by providing it in a safe and regulated way, and it would benefit society by allowing police to concentrate on violent criminals. The only real losers are those who stand to profit from the illegal sale of marijuana and the transportation of the drug into the U.S.
There are many different prospectives on this issue, but one thing is clear: Americans are definatly starting to get used to the idea of legalizing marijuana.
Sources of Information
The post is made up of the author's original content, or is a compliation of material from various places.