Modern Medicine

February 16, 2010
Modern Medicine: Medical Marijuana
“Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care”-Francis Young, DEA administrative law judge.

John is one of the 450,000 Americans living with AIDS. John must take dangerous medication that makes him regurgitate multiple times a day and lose his appetite. His body weight is dropping rapidly and his health is getting worse by the day, so John smokes marijuana to stimulate his appetite and reduce the nausea caused by his AIDS medication. Is John a criminal? The federal government’s answer is crystal clear- yes. Fourteen states have passed legislation to legalize medical marijuana, but marijuana is still illegal under any circumstances federally. But with public opinion of medical marijuana shifting towards support, it is time for change in the policy of our federal government. Medical marijuana is a viable, safe, and effective treatment for a variety of ailments, and should be made legal for medical use in the United States.
Throughout history marijuana has been used for both recreational and medical use with great success, but under the Controlled Substances Act, a doctor can prescribe drugs like opium and cocaine, yet not marijuana. Marijuana has been used medically since about 2000 BC. Marijuana is one of the 50 fundamental herbs for medical use in ancient China, and Egyptians used it to reduce fever, treat hemorrhoids, and treat insomnia. Despite all of marijuana’s uses and general harmlessness, marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which is defined as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety. Other Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, ecstasy, and mescaline, but clearly Marijuana is nowhere near as dangerous and addictive as these drugs. It is wrong and unfair to put heroin and marijuana under the same classification. Marijuana has historically been one of the most important herbal medicines, and is something to be utilized and understood, not propagandized and dramatized as “the devil’s harvest”.
Marijuana has the potential to save lives if it is used in place of dangerous prescription drugs, which are now the leading cause of drug related death in the United States. Most of today’s most popular pain relief medicines, which marijuana could be used in place of, like Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin are what are called Opioids, basically they are synthetic forms of the active chemicals in opium and heroin. Last year over 13,000 Americans died from Opioid abuse according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Also, when doctors prescribe opioids, they are putting their patients in huge danger of addiction. On the contrary, if a doctor were to prescribe his patient medical marijuana, he would be exposing them to a relatively harmless herb that has never been shown to have directly caused a death.
The government has tried to develop and market THC Delta-9 in pill form as their counter to medical marijuana, but many patients claim that this pill, called Marinol, is not nearly as effective as medical marijuana. THC Delta-9 is the active chemical in marijuana, which falls under a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, a group of seven chemicals that occur naturally in the cannabis plant and in the bodies of animals like humans. Marinol consists of just one cannabinoid, but all seven cannabinoids are active in the brain and all seven contribute to the medical effects of marijuana. A brain that receives only one of the seven chemicals would experience minimal effects compared to a brain that gets all seven. The government’s use of only 1 cannabinoid is a vast over-simplification. Marijuana is a complex plant whose effects cannot be duplicated by using only one chemical
Marijuana is simply an extremely versatile herb that ought to be available to patients as well as doctors. It has been proven to relieve pain, relieve nausea, and stimulate appetite. Medical marijuana would also provide a safe option for doctors to prescribe instead of potentially dangerous prescription drugs. Although there are prescription pills available that contain synthetic THC, these pills do not provide what medical marijuana does, as well as being about 10 times more expensive than if a patient were to use medical marijuana. So why is medical marijuana still illegal under federal law? Maybe it is the federal government, who is highly invested in anti-marijuana advertising. Maybe it is the pharmaceutical companies’ lobby, why would they want you to treat yourself with a plant that you can grow yourself when they are making millions off of dangerous and addictive prescriptions? The answer is not clear, but one thing is, medical marijuana is a safe, relatively non-addictive, organic substance that needs to be an option for both doctors and patients under federal law.

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