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- The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes has become an increasingly controversial topic, with many different issues on which people have many different opinions. There is opposition to the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes because it has the potential to be used incorrectly, however it is also considered that there is the potential for marijuana to be used in relieving the suffering of many seriously ill patients. Marijuana has been used by people for thousands of years to provide relief from many different serious medical problems. There are many doctors who currently support the effectiveness of using marijuana as treatment for various medical conditions. The many people who are suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS have found that marijuana can be a very effective pain and symptom reliever. ÂÂ The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes is viewed by its opposers as one of the worst things that we could do. Their reasons are that they feel that marijuana should not be legalized for medical use because it is an illegal substance and until that is changed, prescribing it is against the law. "Attorney General Janet Reno announced that physicians in any state who prescribe the drug could lose the privilege of writing prescriptions, be excluded from medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, and even be prosecuted for a federal crime" (Kassier 1). Government officials such as Janet Reno are not the only ones to object to the legalization of marijuana. Many parents groups like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers object to the legalization of marijuana for medical uses. Their objections come from a reasonable concern that there has been an increase in the use of marijuana by youth. Their concern is expanded since the marijuana of today is much more potent than the marijuana of a few decades ago. The potential for these teens to obtain the drug would increase. Also, the Federal Health and Drug enforcement officials feel that by legalizing marijuana, they would be sending the wrong message to young people ("Your Health" 1). Strong evidence that shows that regular use of marijuana for long periods of time could cause severe lung damage ("Your Health" 3). If the use of marijuana could damage a patient's lungs, then the risk could outweigh the benefit. Marijuana smoke can be twice as toxic as tobacco smoke to a human lung. The strongest point that many make opposing the legalization of marijuana is that there just is no clear evidence that smoking marijuana can help an individual who is ill ("Marijuana for the Sick" 2). Countless amounts of research has been done but both sides have countered each other with facts and studies. What are the benefits and what are the clear cut negatives?
The concept of using marijuana for medical use is nothing new. Marijuana is one of the oldest drugs known to man, the use of it has been documented as far back as 2700 B.C. in a Chinese manuscript. The Chinese would injest or inhale the Marijuana and feel pain relief for headaches and small aches and pains ("Marijuana" 1). The Chinese spread the concept over time, and while it never began a popular drug in most other societies, it still existed and was a common pain reliever. In 1839, a respected member of the Royal Academy of Science, Dr. W. B. O'Shaugnessy, was one of the first in the medical profession, who presented positive facts dealing with marijuana and medicine (History in Brief 3). His work helped open up the medical world to marijuna's medical usees. The drug itself was not used as a popular recreational drug at the time and for this reason few saw a problem with using it for medical purposes. From 1840 to 1900, more than one hundred articles by American and European medical journals were published that showed the therapeutic uses of marijuana (Bakalar 2). Marijuana was recommended to stimulate appetites, and relax muscles, so if marijuana was effective in treating those ailments during this time period. Its defenders point out that the drug was praised by the patients and doctors alike. In 1988, Judge Francis Young, an examiner on administrative issues for the Drug Enforcement Agency, recommended that marijuana be reclassified for medical use, because the "current acceptance" of marijuana is present if a "respectable minority" of doctors support it. ("A Doctor's Report" 1). The same Journal of the American Medical Association article, pointed out that even though the medical history of marijuana is five thousand years old, it has almost all been forgotten.
Marijuana has already been legalized for medical use by both California and Arizona. In order to be passed, these laws required a majority vote by the public and by Congress that favored the legalization of marijuana. In 1991, eighty percent of the San Francisco voters approved of legalizing marijuana, and seventy-seven percent of Santa Cruz voters also agreed ("History of Medical Marijuana" 1). Since these laws were passed, there is proof of support for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. California and Arizona may be the only states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, but they are not the only states that have considered the legalization of medicinal marijuana. "Massachusetts, had previously passed laws that permitted their citizens to use marijuana for medical purposes under some circumstances" ("Reefer Madness" 2). Many states have passed laws that lessen the prosecution of those doctors who prescribe marijuana ("Federal Foolishness and Marijuana" 2). There have also been many polls showing that the public favors the use of marijuana for medical purposes ("Reefer Madness" 2). With all of this support for legalizing marijuana, it is only a matter of time before the prosecution of doctors for prescribing marijuana and patients for using marijuana as medicine ceases.
Another powerful supporting factor for the legalization of marijuana is the endorsement of physicians. During a random survey of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, one thousand thirty-five members responded with surprising results ("A Doctor's Report" 1). Almost half of the doctors said that they would prescribe marijuana if it were legal, and forty-four percent of them said that they had already recommended it to a patient ("A Doctor's Report" 1). If there are doctors who are recommending marijuana, even at the risk of prosecution, it is obvious that they strongly believe that it can be very useful in the treatment of their patients. In addition, almost two thirds of the doctors also agreed that marijuana was an effective anti-emetic ("A Doctor's Report" 1). This is important because of the life-threatening dehydration that can accompany emesis, which is usually known as vomiting. Doctors are allowed to prescribe narcotics for pain relief, such as morphine a!
nd meperdine, which have been known to cause death during overdose, yet they are not allowed to prescribe marijuana as a medicine, even though marijuana has never been known to kill anyone ("Federal Foolishness..." 2).
Scientists have discovered that the reason that marijuana is so effective in treating many of the symptoms of the terminally ill is because of a chemical called THC, which is the main active ingredient in marijuana. Even though science has found a way to make a synthetic THC, marketed as Marinol ("Lost in the Weed" 1), it is extremely expensive, and it does seem to cause higher levels of depression and anxiety ("Lost in the Weed" 1). Other side effects of the synthetic THC are extreme dizziness and unsteady gait ("Your Health" 3). These side effects alone may be difficult to deal with, but many of these patients are already dealing with harmful side effects from the medicines they are taking for the treatment of their illness. They should not have to take a pill that is supposed to relieve them of side effects that causes additional side effects. Another negative aspect of Marinol that is experienced by patients and documented by doctors is that the synthetic THC, and!
the THC from marijuana react differently in the body. There is also "a convincing body of research, some of it now two decades old, shows that smoked marijuana suppresses nausea better than Marinol pills and with fewer side effects." ("Your Health" 3). Also, many patients are combatting nausea and vomiting, and it can be difficult for them to keep the expensive Marinol pill down ("Medical Marijuana Debate Moving Toward Closure" 3). If terminally ill patients have tried many different treatments, which have not been successful, and find that smoking marijuana helps them with their symptoms, with fewer side effects, and less expensively, then the patients should legally be able to have the option to make that choice.
Cancer patients have found marijuana to be very effective in treating the side effects of chemotherapy. In an article in Time, "Marijuana: Where There's Smoke, There's Fire", cancer patient Jo Daly, has described her experience with chemotherapy as a "nuclear implosion" of nausea. She went on to discuss feeling a burning pain under the nails of her fingers and toes. After she had tried many different alternatives to relieve her pain, she tried marijuana which seemed to be the only drug effective in relieving her pain. Jo Daly is not the only one to find marijuana effective in relieving the discomforts of chemotherapy. During the late seventies, and mid-eighties, six states performed research on how well marijuana operated on combatting chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting ("Medical use of Marijuana" 2). Their studies concluded that marijuana an extremely effective way to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy ("Medical use of Marijuana" 2). "Prevention and con!
trol of nausea and vomiting is paramount in the treatment of cancer patients" ("Information for Physicians" 1). The reason that nausea and vomiting needs to be controlled is that, "These can result in serious metabolic derangements, nutritional depletion, deterioration of a patient's physical and mental status, withdrawal from potentially useful and curative antineoplastic treatment, and degeneration of self-care and functional ability." ("Information for Physicians" 1). For cancer patients it is very important to control their nausea and vomiting and marijuana seems to be able to accomplish this. It seems reasonable to allow patients the option and make medical marijuana available for their use.
Another disease that marijuana seems to be useful in pain relief is multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a painful central nervous disease for which there is no known cure. The most common complaint of multiple sclerosis patients is the pain of powerful muscle spasms, vertigo, and double vision, all of which can make life nearly unbearable ("A Daughters Pain" 1). There are some patients who say that marijuana can help in relieving them of these symptoms ("A Daughters Pain" 1). Even though there are existing medications offered to treat multiple sclerosis, many choose marijuana to relieve them of their suffering ("A Daughters Pain" 1). The reason for this is that other medications often result in severe side effects, that marijuana does not seem to have ("A Daughters Pain" 1). There is no documentation of this because there have been no controlled clinical trials that have compared marijuana with existing legal drugs ("Your Health" 3). There is proof, however, in!
the fact that many patients choose to purchase marijuana to relieve their pain at any cost. Some patients are even willing to go to jail to get their marijuana, because for them, it is the only thing that proves to be effective ("Federal Foolishness and Marijuana" 1).
Marijuana has also been found useful for treating patients with AIDS. It seems that marijuana can positively help AIDS patients in several ways. Some ways that marijuana can help is by relieving stress and depression, eliminating nausea, reducing pain, and fighting the AIDS wasting syndrome by enhancing the appetite ("Stop Using Patients as Pawns!!!" 1). Even though there are many treatments, AIDS patients who are in the final stages of the disease still suffer greatly. The legal options for these AIDS patients are the human growth hormone, another type of hormone called Megace, and the synthetic THC pill, Marinol ("Your Health" 3). These are the only FDA approved drugs for treating AIDS wasting syndrome, but some patients say that these are not adequate substitutes for marijuana ("Your Health" 3). It was said by one patient on Marinol that, "All it did was make me groggy without enhancing my appetite.", but marijuana has been found to increase the appetites of AIDS p!
atients. "AIDS activists and the doctors who treat the disease report that marijuana is also useful for suppressing the nausea that's a side effect of several anti AIDS drugs" ("Your Health" 3). Another vital concern when dealing with an AIDS patients is their immune system. However, when studying HIV-positive men who used marijuana, it was determined that the marijuana did not seem to accelerate the deterioration of their immune systems ("Your Health" 4). This is another important consideration in treating this deadly disease.
There are many different viewpoints on the use of marijuana as a medicine. These different points of view result in many important issues regarding the use of an illegal drug for medicinal use. Even though there are many people who are against legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, there are just as many who feel that if used correctly, marijuana can be an essential part of treating serious diseases. For centuries marijuana has been used to help those who are in need of effective pain relief . There are many doctors and patients, who feel that the usefulness and effectiveness of marijuana is being overlooked. As a result, many doctors are recommending the use of marijuana, regardless of the possible legal issues. Many patients, who are suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS, have discovered that marijuana is a drug that provides them with much needed relief and they are using marijuana regardless of the consequences. In basic terms "Marijuana may hav!
e long term adverse effects and its use may presage serious addictions, but neither long-term side effects nor addictions is a relevant issue in such patients" ("Federal Foolishness and Marijuana" 1) While advocating the legalization of marijuana as a recreational drug would be detrimental to society, its effectiveness for medicinal uses is clear and needs to be seriously considered.