One of the fiercest debates in the medical field is the legalization of medical marijuana. The federal government, states, health bodies, doctors, and the general public have been on each other’s necks due to this debate. And what has been the result? Over two-thirds of the states in the USA have passed policies that legalize medical marijuana.
Should the other states follow suit? This article will attempt to answer this question. However, it will first give the background information on medical marijuana, like what it is and its history, before stating why medical marijuana should be legal.
Opponents of medical marijuana legalization mainly claim that legalizing this controversial plant will increase its use among the public, will result in more car accidents, and is immoral in all ways. By using expert statements, this paper will debunk these claims and provide reasons why legalizing medical marijuana will lead to more pros than cons.
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Medical marijuana is the marijuana plant (cannabis) or its components that are utilized to treat or manage the symptoms of specific health conditions. It is also termed medical cannabis. Recreational marijuana is the same plant used in medical marijuana.
The marijuana plant has tens of chemicals in it that are collectively termed cannabinoids. Each chemical tends to have a distinct impact on our bodies, with the most studied and used of them all being cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the main component in marijuana that leads to the “high” feeling in people when they smoke or eat the plant.
Marijuana dates as far as 2900BC when its medicinal potential was discovered in the Chinese empire by Emperor Fu His. Two centuries later, the father of traditional Chinese medicine, Shen Nung, clearly highlighted the healing properties of the plant. From this period to date, marijuana has been used to treat vast numbers of ailments.
Some important dates of marijuana to note as highlighted by the University of Sydney are as follows:
1841: Marijuana was introduced to the USA by William Brooke after a trip to India. Brooke explained the therapeutic uses of cannabis.
1898: Henry and Dunstan isolated cannabinol
The 1940s: Todd and Adams isolated cannabidiol (CBD)
1970: Controlled Substance Act was released in the USA, which declared that marijuana has no therapeutic effects.
1996: California enforced the Compassionate Use Act that allowed the use of medical cannabis
2012: Research showed CBD could manage schizophrenia symptoms
2017: It was discovered that marijuana can decrease seizures in children with epilepsy.
At the end of 2021, 37 states and the District of Columbia had legalized medical marijuana. Besides, many of the remaining states are in the process of creating bills that will allow the use of medical marijuana.
Conditions that may make you qualify for medical marijuana treatment include the ones below, though it depends on your state.
Some of the states that have legalized are:
States that medical marijuana is still illegal include the following.
Although many states have allowed the use of medical marijuana, federal laws are against it. This means that law enforcers can arrest and prosecute doctors and patients for prescribing and using medical marijuana, albeit if them leaving in a state that supports the use of this plant. I know this is confusing, but it is fact. Use these tips to avoid law enforcement encounters and ultimately being caught by them.
Many reasons exist that support the legalization of medical marijuana. Some of the key reasons are as follows.
Research into medical marijuana has proposed that the plant greatly helps manage the conditions and symptoms listed below. It can manage these aspects because cannabinoids – the active ingredients in marijuana – have the same features as some of our body’s chemicals that control pain, movement, memory, and appetite.
Chronic pain. Marijuana can manage several forms of chronic pain, such as neuropathic pain caused by nerve damage.
Muscle tightness. Marijuana has “muscle relaxing” properties that help in conditions like paralysis and multiple sclerosis.
Appetite. Marijuana assists in treating appetite loss that is contributed by conditions such as specific types of cancers and HIV/AIDS.
Nausea. Marijuana is considerably effective in managing vomiting and nausea, mainly when the two are caused by chemotherapy.
The effectiveness of medical marijuana can be witnessed by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) policies. FDA has approved three medications made from marijuana: Epidiolex, dronabinol, and nabilone
A few years ago, medical marijuana was used to control hard-to-treat seizures in children, and after studies were done, it was revealed that there was a dramatic drop in seizures. This led to the creation and production of Epidiolex, which was approved in 2018 after it was found to treat two rare and severe contributors to seizures; Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
The other two FDA-approved cannabinoid medicines used to treat vomiting and nausea from chemotherapy are nabilone (Cesamet) and dronabinol (Syndros, Marinol). These two were approved in 1985.
Medical marijuana is safer than many medications when it comes to treating pain. Patients who have used it state that the side effects are less than when using the commonly used traditional painkillers, mainly opioids (including oxycodone and morphine). In addition, patients resume their normal activities faster when they use medical marijuana than opioids.
Opioids are super-addictive and lethal if misused, capable of leading to death. In contrast, medical marijuana rarely leads to death when overdosed. Also, medical marijuana treats pain due to nerve issues and multiple sclerosis with minimal sedation effects compared to the other medicines used for these health issues, such as opiates, Lyrica, and Neurontin.
Another superiority of marijuana is that it can be used to manage pain in individuals with health problems such as GERD, ulcers, and kidney damage. In contrast, painkillers, like NSAIDs, cannot be used.
Many critics of medical marijuana legalization point out that permitting it will result in a surge of marijuana abuse, specifically among minors. The critics have a point because certain pieces of research have found this to be true. But this is not the case with all the studies; some say otherwise. Thus, it can be seen that the critics are leaning on the side that they see fit, as there is no conclusive evidence from research.
Studies that declare that legalizing it will not necessarily cause an increase in marijuana have Colorado and Florida to offer as evidence. Coastal Integrative Medicine notes that marijuana use did not rise in these two states after legalizing it for medical purposes. On the contrary, the opposite happened and was mainly achieved using effective education programs and regulations.
The other claim of critics of legalization is that high usage of medical marijuana will result in many car accidents because of the “high” feeling brought by this plant when consumed. The THC component in marijuana brings about this feeling, and some cannabis types (mainly the CBD-dominant ones) have little to no THC.
The three drugs approved by FDA are made from the CBD dominant strain; hence, they cause little to no effect on consciousness. In other words, critics need to underline this sentience; using FDA-approved medical marijuana does not increase car accidents more than other alternative medications.
Medical marijuana affects our consciousness the same way as the other traditional alternatives. So, critics should avoid blaming medical marijuana as the others (like opioids) have more severe side effects on our consciousness.
Although experts provide several reasons why medical marijuana needs to be legalized, there are certain limitations, mainly in terms of the side effects of scientific evidence.
Lung damage - Research depicts that any form of smoking has detrimental effects on our lungs. Some pieces of research done on cannabis show that it harms the lungs. However, other studies are against it.
Weakens our consciousness - Consciousness is mainly termed “cognition” by researchers. They state that regular use of marijuana impacts our conscious (thinking) capabilities.
Potential abuse - Marijuana is addictive; therefore, there is a risk of potential abuse when consumed by patients.
Memory - Some studies found that frequent marijuana usage can severely impact short-term memory.
Conflicting scientific evidence
The other major limitation of legalizing medical marijuana is that evidence provided in favor of legalizing it is not conclusive. What do we mean by “not conclusive?”
Some studies support legalizing medical marijuana, while at the same time, some are against it. No definite conclusion can be reached as all arguments or claims have studies that back them and studies that oppose them.
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