Legalize Medical Marijuana Now … Essay
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One of the more controversial issues in American politics today is the issue of marijuana legalization. There are many forms that this can take, ranging from decriminalization to medical legalization to recreational legalization. If the recreational debate is focused around issues like individual rights, the medical debate should be more straightforward, focused specifically on issues of medical efficacy. All drugs that are given approval by the FDA for medical use go through screening processes to test for safety and efficacy, so marijuana for medical purposes would have to do the same to be legalized at the federal level.. This paper will examine some of the arguments for and against the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. Ultimately, there are many health benefits that go along with medical marijuana use. Furthermore, marijuana if legalized can be subject to taxation, something that will increase the budget revenues of any government willing to legalize it. The third argument in favor of medical marijuana is that an FDA-guided regulatory process would make marijuana safer, by ensuring a consistent product, with determinable potency, free from fault or defect.
But first, some background. Marijuana is a plant of the species cannabis sativa L., also known as Indian hemp. It is a member of the Cannibacae, or hemp family. Hops, used in flavoring beer, are another plant in this family, one that is not subject to legal constraint. Cannabis is thought to have originated in the mountainous districts of India, south of the Himalayan Mountains. Marijuana has been used for its health benefits for millennia. Terrie (2015) notes that it has been used "for more than 3000 years for the treatment and management of pain, digestive issues and psychological disorders," while Zimmerman (2015) points out that this use was not limited to India -- it was used in ancient China to treat gout, rheumatism, malaria and memory loss.
To illustrate how contentious the issue of marijuana is, the United States is nearly split on the issue. The use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 23 states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam (Zimmerman 2015), while there are now four states that have legalized recreational use -- Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska. Medical marijuana should be legalized in the remaining states, and regulated at the federal level, in order that all Americans can benefit from the health advantages of medical marijuana use.
There is a long history in the U.S. of using marijuana for its health benefits. Zimmerman (2015) recounts that an Irish physician, William O'Shaughnessy, popularized the use of marijuana for health purposes in both Britain and America after having seen it used for this purpose in India. It was only in the late 1800s that this usage began to fall out of favor, in particular as the federal government sought to regulate drugs, which at the time were both popular and destructive. While the target of this effort was initially morphine, marijuana was swept up as well. In 1937, the Marihuana Tax Act "imposed such high taxes on physicians prescribing marijuana, retail pharmacists selling cannabis and those cultivating medical cannabis that it fell out of favor as a treatment (Zimmerman, 2015).
Yet, marijuana's health benefits have not changed from the days when it was commonly prescribed. It is used to help manage pain, to combat nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, to help people suffering from anxiety and has been demonstrated effective in the treatment of glaucoma, an eye disease.(Terrie 2015) Very limited uses for chemically altered forms of THC have been approved by the FDA for medical use, but not the plant form. The ban, unfortunately, makes it more difficult to do tests on smoking marijuana (Zimmerman 2015). Much of the data is self-reported, but studies have been conducted in Europe or other places where there is less legal risk associated with doing so.
Medical benefits should be a convincing enough case, if one has compassion, but even those who prefer cold, hard numbers will find the case for legalization to be quite potent. Taxing marijuana has tremendous revenue potential. After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana it earned $44 million in tax revenues, a figure that climbed to $73.5 million in just the first seven months of 2015 -- this stuff is green gold for state treasuries (Keyes 2015).
There is, as many will argue, a trade-off, because access to marijuana is greater, even with medical legalization, and of course there are fewer taxes collected on medical. Yet, the evidence from the states that allow medical marijuana is that there are effective controls put into place to avoid the abuse of marijuana. Because the federal government has maintained its prohibition stance, states have been free to define their own controls. Most states require a person to have a medical marijuana card, and obtaining one of these requires certification by a physician. The patchwork of laws ranges from the very tight -- where marijuana is only legal in very weak forms or for very serious conditions, to the distinctly liberal (Zimmerman 2015). The common thread between the states, with all their different forms of controls on the use of marijuana, is that there are no reported problems with abuse, either by adults or by minors. There is basically zero evidence of harm, and in truth there never was.
A federal solution, however, will require federal safety requirements to be applied. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are some benefits to federal regulation of marijuana. First, such regulation will allow for a consistent product. Buying on the black market can result in overdose, as potency and dosage can vary significantly, especially with edibles. The more people know about the product, the better they can manage their consumption, but with federal regulations consumption will be even easier to manage. A prescription system will deliver a consistent product tailored to individual needs, same as with any other prescription. If the government can regulate opioids, it can regulate marijuana, which is much less dangerous. Plus, with legalization and regulation, production is taken out of any criminal hands, and will ultimately end up in corporate hands.
There are definitely those who oppose the legalization of marijuana. Some people feel that the plant is addictive -- it has never been demonstrated to be such. Some people fear that more widespread access will encourage greater use. While that is true, this is typically among adults. . Teenagers already report having better access to marijuana -- and other illegal drugs -- than they do to alcohol. Since no legalization scheme -- medical, recreational or otherwise -- would allow teenagers to access marijuana anyway, nothing changes for that segment of the population. If anything, marijuana will be harder to obtain, much like alcohol is now, because teens would have to buy it from somebody who has a vested interest in saying "no." "
There are also arguments against legalization in that there is not much evidence for medical uses. This is mostly a function, however of its illegality. Much more dangerous drugs are available for medical uses, and seem to be accepted.. What is morphine if not heroin? Anecdotal evidence suggests that medical marijuana is beneficial to those who are suffering. Furthermore, what evidence there does exist -- Terrie (2015) cites numerous sources -- shows that medical marijuana has the beneficial effects that its advocates say it has. The "we don't know it works" argument is a thin veneer of a case, used as a smokescreen for the moral arguments above, which hold no water in a secular society where laws should be based on evidence.
Marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes nationwide. There is ample evidence to suggest that marijuana has positive health effects for a number of different conditions, including evidence found in medical journals. There is also the history of 23 states to consider -- revenues increase, and there is no increase in social problems that has been associated with the medical legalization of marijuana. At the federal level, regulation would help to create a consistent product, one that many sufferers of disease can rely on in their time of need. There are much worse, much harder drugs that are regulated at the federal level for medical purposes, and on that basis it seems unreasonable to continue to single out this one plant for unique treatment.
There is no reasonable argument against medical marijuana -- moral arguments hold not water, and the evidence all points firmly in the direction of legalization. The reality is that legalization for medical purposes should have occurred a long time ago, and it is now quite overdue. The federal government should end its stance on marijuana, as this stance is outmoded, runs contrary to medical evidence, and the experience of 23 states plus DC tells us that the objections some have to this legalization hold no merit.
Keyes, Scott. Colorado's marijuana tax revenues nearly double last year's figures. The Guardian.… [END OF PREVIEW]
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