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Posted on August 18th, 2012, by

The issue of legalization of marijuana and its application for medical purposes has been rather controversial for a long period of time. A lot pf people and scientists argued, that this is still a drug and should not become an officially legalized one, as there will be a risk of increase of illegal sales and marijuana abuse.

In this paper we are going to study the most common medical applications of this light drug and will prove, that marijuana is actually one of the safest active substances for therapeutic aims, providing zero risk of overdose and at the same time ensuring a wide range of possible applications in medicine.

We are going to start from historical development of marijuana problem. Before the year 1937 there were around 27 medicines in use, which contained marijuana and were absolutely legal in America. The most well-known examples of them were produced by such companies as Squibb and Eli Lilly. In 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was issued, this act brought banning of this plant. One of the strongest opponents of this act was Dr. William Woodward, he tried to pay attention of the administration to the fact, that actual banning of marijuana would lead to banning it as the medical constituent part as well.

Several decades later, namely in the year 1970, the Controlled Substances Act presented the five schedules of all drugs, where marijuana was referred to the first one defining it as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medicinal use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision (Ben, 2006). Not all specialists however could agree, that this definition was corresponding to marijuana. The main problem was, that due to the fact, that for already three decades marijuana was not in use and its medical characteristics were almost forgotten, instead it was considered to be one of the serious drugs. In the same year, medical application of marijuana was rediscovered again. Some researchers started to study the history of medical use of marijuana and came to the conclusion, that it really had sufficient potential as medicine. As a result a lot of patients started to use marijuana, although it was still not subscribed by doctors officially. Two years later a petition was sent to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, to refer marijuana to another schedule, for it to be available by prescription. The major arguments were: Marijuana in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known, It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for DEA ton continue to stand between those suffers and the benefits of this substance( Grotenhermen, 2002).

The movement of marijuana to the second Schedule would allow doctors proscribe it to patients, who needed it. This appeal of Judge Young was not accepted and he got the rejection from DEA management. Other appeals followed later, but they were of little success either. However this was not the end of marijuana struggle. In 1975, a man, suffering from glaucoma, Robert Randall was arrested because he cultivated marijuana. He managed to prove in the court, that the only reason why he did it, was his illness and his own need in this medicine. The case was won thanks to medical necessity defence. What was allowed to one patient could not be prohibited to other, there appeared the Investigational New Drug compassionate access program, for those people, who could receive marijuana access from the government (Ben, 2006). Certainly this program brought relief to people, who needed marijuana treatment, because before many of them had doubts, that illegal drug might be helpful for them, others simply were not aware of the medical strength of the plant, or there was a problem to find a doctor, who would agree to risk and advise unofficially this medicine. In 1992 unfortunately due to the increase of number of applications from people, suffering from AIDS Bush and his administration took the decision to close this program and during the years of Clinton the situation was not changed. Thus this program operates legally only to those patients, who were initially registered within it.

We are to underline, that public support was not considered as a sufficient argument pro legalization of marijuana medicines, although there were several vivid examples of it. A great number of voters from such states as California, Alaska, Colorado, District of Columbia voted for removing of criminal penalties for growing or possession of marijuana for those people, who needed it due to their state of health (Ashton & Moore, 2005). The research done in 1990 among the cancer specialists showed, that more than 50 % of them supported the medical application of marijuana, not including those doctors, who broke the law and suggested using marijuana to their patients. At last the research of 2001 proved, that 73 % of American citizens voted in favour for medical application of marijuana. The last years bring various, but rather consistent results, thus around 60 % to 80 % of people believe, that marijuana should be made legal for medical purposes.

The federal government has no legal authority to prevent state governments from changing their laws to remove state-level criminal penalties for medical marijuana use. Indeed, Hawaii enacted a medical marijuana law via its state legislature in June 2000 (Ashton & Moore, 2005).

State authorities have the power to free seriously ill patients from state level legal responsibility and punishment as well as the doctors, who recommend marijuana to such patients. Thus states have practically the chance to ensure their citizens, that they won’t be prosecuted or arrested, if they use marijuana for medical needs.

There were several attempts from the side of the patients to struggle officially in courts for their right to apply marijuana legally, however these attempts were of no success. The courts are working together with DEA in this situation, and DEA strongly insists on prohibition of medical application of marijuana as well as marijuana itself.

There are some researches done at the moment as for the medical potential of this drug, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse made it really problematic for any researchers to obtain marijuana legally for any kind of studies.

Unfortunately, patients, who need marijuana, still continue to suffer, as long as there are not enough arguments for the USA administration for its legalization.

However, there are enough facts, which are evident without further researches marijuana is able to damage health of people as well as it has the potential for positive effects in case it is used to cure some diseases. This is already enough for making this drug legal in case, it is subscribed by the doctor. Before studying the medical characteristics of marijuana, it is necessary to provide the definition of it: There are several names for marijuana in the Schedule 1: hemp, Indian hemp, marijuana, cannabis. Officially the term marijuana means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant; its seeds and resin (Russo, 2004). All the things, mentioned in this definition, are just examples of marijuana application and do not observe all its potential.

There exists also fiber, oil, sterilized seeds of the plant, which play a vitally important role for its medical application.

Certainly it is hard not to agree, that the problem of marijuana is a rather controversial one, but on the other hand, the arguments pro its legalization are strong enough as long as we are talking about health of people.

To treat the problem from a different angle let’s answer the question, why marijuana could not be legal? First of all certainly because of possible addiction of people, who would abuse this drug. But in this case – why nobody is banning alcohol or smoking, as they also bring damage to people’s health, cause addiction and besides have zero positive impact? If people have free choice as for alcohol and smoking, why should there be the restrains concerning marijuana. Normally, illegal are considered to be the actions of people, which cause harm to others, in the case with medical application of marijuana there is no harm done to anybody, moreover there is a number of positive outcomes. Thus it is logically, that as long as there is no harm to other people, an individual should have the choice either to include marijuana into his treatment program or not. Further in this paper we are going to stop in details upon the medical importance of marijuana.

So, the most common medical applications of marijuana are:

– Relief from nausea and increase of appetite;
– Reduction of intraocular pressure;
– Reduction of muscle spasms;
– Relief from chronic pain.

The main list of diseases, for treatment or relief of which marijuana can be applied is the following:

1. AIDS marijuana is usually used for the patients, when they suffer from loss of appetite and problems with vomiting, which are often the results of most of other medications against AIDS. According to the researches, done by the Columbia University, the patients with AIDS, who inhaled cannabis several times per day, reported sufficient increase in food intake. For HIV positive patients smoking of marijuana has also a positive effect (Ashton & Moore, 2005). The researches of 2008 done by another University of California concluded, that marijuana was rather helpful in pain reduction and brought rapid relief in comparison to other medications. The pain perception is modulated due to the cannabinoid receptors. At the same time there were no reports about seriously negative effects of marijuana during the process of treatment of the patients with HIV or AIDS.

2. Glaucoma intraocular pressure is reduced with the help of marijuana, the pain is lessened, and the progress of the condition goes slower or sometimes even stops after application of marijuana. The history of application of marijuana for glaucoma treatment is rather long, already in 1970 scientists came to the conclusion, that marijuana is able to reduce pressure in the eyes. The exact mechanism of this effect was not studied 100 percent yet. CB1 receptors were defined in the eyes, which are most likely related to the effects of marijuana on glaucoma. There are certainly a number of other medications for glaucoma treatment, but experiments show, that their effects are often rather short time, as they loose their effectiveness. There is the main aim for the scientists now, to work out the medication with cannabinoids, which could be put directly on eyes, instead of long inhalation of marijuana, which still has some side effects for the patient.

3. Cancer after such treatment as chemotherapy, patients suffer from vomiting, nausea, problems with appetite, in such cases marijuana might be rather helpful.

4. Multiple sclerosis due to the fact, that marijuana is able to reduce spasms and pain in muscles, which are inevitable for this disease, it could be of great help for such patients, Besides, it is applied by tremor and unsteadiness of gait. Not many people are aware of the fact, that multiple sclerosis is a serious problem not only for middle-aged people, but for young people in America as well.

5. Epilepsy for some patients marijuana reduces the number of epileptic seizures, or event prevents them.

6. Chronic pain this is classical application of marijuana, as in numerous cases of injuries, trauma, diseases and so on chronic pain might be reduced with the help of marijuana (Grotenhermen, 2002)

Further researches proved, that marijuana might be rather helpful for treating arthritis, menstrual cramps, mood disorders, alcohol addition. Taking into consideration this long list of diseases, we can conclude, that legal medical treatment with marijuana could be of great support for thousands of people, whereas in reality only some of the patients are able to get the special permission from the federal government for such treatment legally. But to be honest, in the position of a sick person, who would have the choice, either to suffer and to remain law-abiding or to find relief for his sufferings by using marijuana and break the law at the same time, what would any of us do? Probably most of people would choose the second variant. This is inhuman to put a person, who already suffers from a serious disease, at risk of criminal punishment or penalty.

Certainly it is difficult to deny, that legalization of marijuana would not have purely positive outcomes and would not cause any problems for the society in general. It is clear, that the risk of addiction remains absolutely actual. On the other hand, nowadays there are enough addicted people, in spite of the fact, that marijuana remains illegal, thus strict legalization is probably a bad solution for the problem of addiction. Besides, illegal marijuana is often the cause of violence, as addicted people are ready to do a lot of things in order to get their dose. There is even the theory, stating, that prohibition of this drug doesn’t help the country in struggle with drugs, moreover it only makes the problem more profound. Prohibition in some cases is even able to increase drug abuse, as we all know about the forbidden fruit, especially for young people. In reality illegal marijuana is spread even quicker, than could be the situation with legal one, as the person who buys it in the black market from drug dealers shouldn’t be 21 or have any receipts from the doctor. The fact, that marijuana is forbidden and at the same time available makes it rather popular. If to compare with alcohol we see, that for teenagers it is easier to buy marijuana, because alcohol is legal and thus controlled by the government. Is it not better in this case to concentrate upon open and honest programs for young people, as the most vulnerable ones, explaining the problem, providing free education concerning the drugs abuse and the possible consequences, instead of simple banning of drugs? The lesson with alcohol prohibition must be a good one for the situation with marijuana as well.

Some opponents of marijuana legalization are sure, that if this drug becomes legal, the doctors, who have the right to subscribe it would became a part of black market chain for distribution of drugs, instead of proscribing them strictly to those, who need it due to their diseases. This is certainly a risk, which can be in a way controlled and is finally worth having, if compared to the relief, brought to the patients. We agree, that government bears the responsibility for its people and thus should have control over marijuana as one of the drugs, which is able to cause enough problems for the society and young generation. But medical application of marijuana still stands apart of general issues about drugs abuse. People, who want to reduce their pain or doctors, who try to use all the possible chances to help their patients, should never be put in the same range as criminal, drug dealers or drug addicted criminals. Such patients, as opposed to the last ones, are not able to do any harm to people around them due to application of marijuana. Certainly the decision of making marijuana legal for medical purposes can be considered easy and quick, but at least it needs thorough consideration and examination before.

Probably seldom people think about the financial side of the issue, whereas keeping marijuana illegal costs more for the state, than making it a legal drug. Federal government, state authorities are to give out millions of dollars in order to control and punish all people who use marijuana, irrespective of the reason, why people do that. All of them are arrested and sent to prisons, whereas some part of them do not belong to criminal world and are simply sick people. It would seem more sensible to make marijuana a legal medicine and collect taxes from it, instead of remaining blind to its medical potential.

Overall, we have studied the problem of marijuana legalization for medical purposes. We studied the historical development of the approaches to the issues and the debates over marijuana legalization. We listed a number of diseases, which can be if not treated, but at least alleviated with the help of cannabis or marijuana, including glaucoma, AIDS, cancer, chronic pain and so on. We considered the arguments against marijuana legalization and provided contra arguments pro making this drug legal for medical purposes. Thus we can conclude, that cannabis or marijuana is a unique drug, the medical potential of which should not be underestimated or all the more ignored.

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