Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. Basically, the government believes marijuana has “no medical use in treatment in the United States.” It was in 1996 when Proposition 215 passed in California that states began to allow the use of medical marijuana. However, some people seem to hold on to the idea that marijuana is bad. “Ethics is defined as the system of human mental activities that allows us to assign a degree of ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ to a situation, action, or idea based on the societal perceptions of the time.”
Marijuana has been scientifically proven to be useful in treating several diseases and conditions. When used for medical applications, marijuana does not cause a high. It can provide treatment for patients who have Tried other options and they have failed. There is the potential that some people will abuse marijuana….does that mean people that would benefit from it should not be allowed to use this medication? Ethically, if only a few people would responsibly use marijuana and benefit from it, should that be reason enough to allow those individuals access to it?
Most people have no issue with using prescription drugs with similar potential for abuse if it is done appropriately….if it is prescribed by a physician for a medical problem. Most people do object to allowing people access to those same drugs for recreational use. They recognize there is difference in medical and recreational use.
People have used marijuana for a variety of health conditions for at least 3,000 years. According to “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research” at NAP.edu (2017)
Medical treatment with marijuana was effective for but not limited to:
1)In adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, oral cannabinoids are effective antiemetics.
2)In adults with chronic pain, patients who were treated with cannabis or cannabinoids are more likely to experience a clinically significant reduction in pain symptoms.
3)In adults with multiple sclerosis related spasticity, short-term use of oral cannabinoids improves patient reported symptoms.
For all other conditions evaluated there is inadequate information to assess their effects.
The most recent research points us toward the conclusion that cannabis is useful in the treatment of several medical problems. These include pain relief (more specifically neuropathic pain), nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Marijuana has also been proven to be very helpful as an appetite stimulant, specifically for patients with HIV, AIDS , wasting syndrome, or dementia. New studies suggest that cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis may work together to help protect the body against some types of malignant(cancerous) tumors. Additionally cannabis use in pain patients was associated with a 64 percent reduction in opioid use (Boehnke et al., 2016).
The usual argument against legalizing marijuana is its risk for abuse and dependence. And while it is a reasonable concern, there are a multitude of already legally prescribed medicines that pose at least as great of a risk. If potential for addiction is the main argument for banning marijuana, then we need to ban all medications that have similar qualities. Medical marijuana opponents object to the “high” people could get from using it. But, it seems that 2 things are always overlooked.
1. Many prescription drugs can and do cause a high. Opiates, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxers, amphetamines, and a lot of other medications, cause a “high” like illegal drugs. There is clearly a double standard if we are basing our decision on those principles alone.
2. Some marijuana variations have very little risk for abuse. The cannabis that is approved in many states is a variety that includes marijuana and hemp, which has therapeutic but lacks mind-altering properties. It makes little sense that in August 2015, OxyContin was approved for use in children age 11-16, despite the fact we know it is at more dangerous and addictive! So why has the FDA approved a drug that has a very high risk of abuse, but they will not approve marijuana that has basically been cleared of the serious risk for abuse and remains a therapeutic alternative? I fail to see the logic behind that decision.
Prescription drugs result in more deaths than all illegal drugs combined. According to drugwarfacts.org, marijuana resulted in ZERO deaths in 2016 while prescription pain medication caused of over 16,000 deaths. The same source reports alcohol related deaths to be 29,000. Even though they are illegal, alcohol and marijuana are still seriously abused.
Of course marijuana has short term side effects. THC binds to cannabinoid receptors, which are concentrated in areas of the brain where thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception are processed. The effects of marijuana can affect attention, judgment and balance.
Marijuana over activates the part of the brain that contain more numerous cannabinoid receptors in the short term. This causes the “high” that people feel. Other less generally desirable effects include: altered senses, altered sense of time, changes in mood, impaired body movement, trouble with thinking and problem solving, impaired memory, hallucinations (when taken in high doses), delusions (when taken in high doses) and psychosis (when taken in high doses).
There is virtually no risk of overdose death due to THC. An overdose occurs when a person uses enough of a drug to produce life-threatening symptoms or death. There are no reports of teens or adults dying from marijuana by itself. However, research does suggest that somewhere between 9% and 30% of recreational marijuana users may develop some degree of marijuana use disorder. A majority of long term users generally report mild withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult.
There are long term effects as well. Marijuana seems to affect brain development. If people begin using marijuana at a young age(teens), the drug may have long term effects in thinking, memory, and learning. It may also affect how the brain develops connections between the areas that are utilized for these functions. Research continues as to how long marijuana’s effects may last, as a fact some changes may be permanent.
Additionally, studies have produced differing results as to whether smoking marijuana carries a significant cancer risk. Furthermore, more research is required to evaluate whether secondhand marijuana smoke has similar health risks as secondhand tobacco smoke. Studies also show it is unlikely that secondhand marijuana exposure would give nonsmoking people in a confined space a high from the exposure(no contact high).