Medical marijuana exists in never-never land.
It's a controlled and illegal substance used for decades for intoxication, and more recently a potent medication that can ease the symptoms of several serious conditions and can increase the health and well being of people suffering from serious and terminal diseases.
Medical marijuana is illegal in all 50 states by federal law, and although a majority of people polled favor the use of medical marijuana in a controlled manner, as of yet, no legislation exists that allows doctors to prescribe this medication in complete security.
Medical marijuana faces some significant challenges to full scale approval, and although there have been numerous positive study outcomes on its effectiveness, there are also some health risks, it remains a widely abused and addictive drug, and there is little will within the private healthcare system to introduce marijuana on a large scale.
Why Do People Use Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana helps people enduring symptoms of disease, or enduring symptoms of harsh treatments for disease. Cancer patients, multiple sclerosis patients, Aids patients and Glaucoma patients, amongst others, have all felt medical marijuana's remarkable ability to ease their discomforts.
One of the most impressive effects of medical marijuana relates to its nature as an anti emetic and appetite increasant. For patients with AIDS wasting or cancer patients enduring severe regimens of chemotherapy, smoking marijuana can truly make the difference between life and death. Marijuana decreases nausea and vomiting and increases appetite. It allows these patients to eat, to gain strength and nourishment, and to arrest continuing and problematic weight loss. Medical marijuana seems to work better than anything else currently available for those people suffering and unable to keep food down.
It also seems to help a great deal to reduce the pains of glaucoma and the pains of multiple sclerosis, and it also eases the anxiety present with all of the above conditions.
Because of marijuana's real efficacy as a life saving drug, several organizations including the AIDS Council, The American Public Health Association and the California Medical Association, have all called for an easing of regulation on its use.
Two major issues currently affecting access are that marijuana is a widely abused intoxicating substance, and that marijuana is most frequently smoked. Opponents of medical marijuana point to the risks of abuse and addiction as a significant problem with its use and its acceptance.
Additionally, the health risks of marijuana smoke (a proven carcinogen) the inability to control the quantities of active substances within a freely growing plant and the existence of synthetic alternatives, all reduce the probability of a near future acceptance of marijuana as a viable public health option.
Medical marijuana has been widely promoted as a solution to deadly AIDS wasting, but there has been some recent evidence that the positive appetite increasing effects may be countered by a real lowering of immune system functioning.
Current Legal Status
A number of states have decriminalized medical marijuana or have eased restrictions on doctors, allowing them to prescribe the medication. Unfortunately, federal law still prohibits the use of and possession of the substance, regardless of state initiatives to change its legal status, and as such clinics providing medical marijuana in these states have been subject to DEA raids and harassment.
No one in America may currently use medical marijuana without some fear of legal repercussions. It remains completely illegal in all 50 states.
Marinol vs. Marijuana
Opponents of medical marijuana point to synthetic drugs such as Marinol, which synthesizes the THC from marijuana into an oral form of medication. They argue that these medications offer the same health benefits of medial marijuana, but are controlled in quantity per dose. Taking a pill also eliminates the risks of smoking on the respiratory system, and also reduces the probability of abuse.
Problematically, these medications have not performed as well as ordinary smoked marijuana in a number of studies, even studies seemingly designed to show that Marinol equals in benefits and exceeds in safety. It doesn’t work as well, many patients suffering the effects of chemotherapy cannot keep any medications down due to extreme vomiting, and it doesn’t seem to offer the same pain or anxiety relief as does the original plant.
Medical marijuana proponents argue that marijuana offers more than THC alone, and is composed of over 400 active substances, not all of which are completely understood. Marinol, and other replicated forms of the THC in marijuana, do not offer as much as simple marijuana can.
Public Opinion and Should You Use Medical Marijuana?
Almost 3 quarters of Americans polled favor the use of medical marijuana. Americans overwhelmingly believe that doctors should be allowed to prescribe the drug in a controlled manner to those in real need, and to those for who medical marijuana can ease some suffering.
In response to this increase in public approval, congress has been getting successively closer (increasing yes votes) to legislation that will make it easier for the decriminalization of medical marijuana for those in need.
Although there are certain medical organizations which do not call for medical marijuana (most notably the AMA) a majority of public health groups do favor its use in a controlled manner.
One of the most significant challenges facing medial marijuana within the American health care system regards it's composition as a natural plant. The FDA approval process, and indeed the entire medical industry, is not designed to accept medications from outside of the pharmaceutical industry. No one can patent a plant, there is no money to be made off of its use, and there is little incentive for anyone to lobby for its acceptance.
Additionally, because so many millions of Americans do smoke marijuana for non medical reasons, there is a legitimate fear of broadening access to the drug, and possibly losing control over its distribution. No one wants to see more marijuana available to those who would abuse it, and even though it does seem to offer legitimate medical efficacy, the risks of abuse make it politically problematic.
Should You Use Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana is illegal, and if you do decide to use the drug, you must be aware of the risks of prosecution. You may decide that legal risks are an acceptable price to pay for a drug that may offer significant symptoms relief, and allow you better health and a better quality of life. Before trying medical marijuana you should talk with your doctor about your suitability for marijuana therapy. He or she may not be able to prescribe or even recommend its use, but they will be able to inform you better of medical marijuana's relevance for your symptoms expression.
Medical marijuana is a valid choice for those in real need but although marijuana may serve a beneficial function for people with certain health conditions, marijuana is not a beneficial drug for anyone who does not explicitly require it for symptoms relief. Because medical marijuana can help some people does not make marijuana a good idea for all people.
Page last updated Jun 26, 2012