Term Paper: Medical Marijuana to a Great Degree

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Medical Marijuana

To a great degree, drug policy in America has long been irrational, based more on fear than evidence. Drugs are targeted when someone perceives that they are a problem, and once they are listed as a controlled substance, the listing becomes a self-perpetuating phenomenon. All evidence to the contrary is dismissed. Marijuana is listed as a controlled substance and has been demonized as a pernicious evil ever since. Growing evidence of the health effects of marijuana for people suffering from certain maladies has not been sufficient to change federal policies, and the irrationality grows as some states have adopted laws allowing for the medical use of marijuana even as the federal government has refused to do so and has sought to criminalize the medical use of marijuana specifically. In truth, the federal response is wrong-headed, and the oft-repeated fear that allowing medical marijuana is tantamount to legalizing marijuana use for everyone is specious. Allowing the wider use of marijuana might be argued but has nothing to do with In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act placed marijuana on the list of forbidden substances. The strongest force in controlling drug use was social censure for most of the time since, and during this period heroin became the primary drug of abuse. Heroin users tended to live mainly in urban ghettoes and so did not come into contact with the mainstream of society. After World War II this picture changed with the arrival in the 1950s of new types of powerful medications with the ability to alter mood. Physicians used these new drugs to treat various mood states and changed the practice of psychiatry forever. More and more mind-changing chemicals appeared and took hold, and marijuana came into its own in the 1960s as the drug of choice for a new generation. The 1960s was also a time of drug experimentation with hallucinogens, and though these were never legal, their use increased during this period. The market for drugs grew so large that a huge worldwide network of growers, manufacturers, and distributors came into being (Gold 29-30).

Despite contentions by those who advocate outlawing any use of marijuana, a great deal is known about the health effects of the drug. In fact, few drugs have been so extensively scrutinized and for such a long time. The myths of the 1930s and 1940s about marijuana -- that marijuana is addictive, causes insanity, and will eventually lead to homicidal behavior -- have since been dismissed as ignorance. Opponents of marijuana now claim that science does not know enough about its long-term effects, and thus the drug is potentially dangerous. The most widely accepted physiological effects of marijuana are stimulation of the appetite, an effect on psychomotor performance, minimizing memory recall ability, and an increased pulse rate with a slight increase in blood pressure (Maykut 4-5). Some studies suggest other health effects, such as respiratory depression, fluctuations in blood sugar levels, and a lowering of the body's immune system.

Those opposing legalizing the use of medical marijuana often claim a lack of scientific evidence demonstrating its medicinal value. However, as is shown by the nonprofit Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, there are today more than seventy modern studies published in peer-reviewed journals or by government agencies verifying that marijuana does have medicinal value. In addition, in 1988 the Drug Enforcement Administration's own chief administrative law judge, Francis Young, made a ruling and stated, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known.... It would be unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious for DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance." ((Demmer 35). This has not stopped the DEA from doing so, howwever.

Among the known therapeutic uses for marijuana are treatment for relieving chronic pain, relieving nausea, reducing muscle spasms and spasticity, reducing intraocular eye pressure, and increasing appetite. Marijuana is therefore most beneficial to people suffering from cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments. While the federal government remains opposed, voters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and the state of Washington passed legislation allowing its medicinal use, usually enabling patients to grow, possess, and use medical marijuana when approved by a physician. Such laws permit the assistance of a caregiver who is authorized to help the patient grow, acquire, or consume medical marijuana and further immunizes physicians from liability for discussing or recommending medical use of marijuana (Demmer 35). Yet, such laws are often trumped by federal laws and federal action.

Following democratic principles, there is every reason to change federal law to allow for the medical use of marijuana. Support for medical marijuana is quite high among the electorate:

Seventy-two percent say that for simple marijuana possession, people should not be incarcerated but fined: the generally accepted definition of "decriminalization." Even more Americans support making marijuana legal for medical purposes. Support for broader legalization ranges between 25 and 42%, depending on how one asks the question. Two of every five Americans -- according to a 2003 Zogby poll -- say "the government should treat marijuana more or less the same way it treats alcohol: It should regulate it, control it, tax it, and only make it illegal for children." (Nadelmann 28) speaking of marijuana use in general, Nadelmann states, "Marijuana prohibition is unique among American criminal laws. No other law is both enforced so widely and harshly and yet deemed unnecessary by such a substantial portion of the populace" (28). The argument for prohibiting medical marijuana is even weaker than for marijuana as a substance.

Even many on the political right have joined in the battle for medical marijuana and often for legalizing marijuana across-the-board. As one writer, notes, "it makes little sense to send people to jail for using a drug that, in terms of its harmfulness, should be categorized somewhere between alcohol and tobacco on one hand and caffeine on the other" (Lowery para. 4). Lowery also notes that while alcohol and tobacco kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, "there is as a practical matter no such thing as a lethal overdose of marijuana. Yet federal law makes possessing a single joint punishable by up to a year in prison, and many states have similar penalties" (Lowery para. 4). Pet4er Schrag notes the spread of medical marijuana laws, all voted on by the electorate, showing clearly that the public wants the law changed, and then point sout, "But the feds don't get it, or pretend not to get it. There's too much money and too many jobs in the drug war, and being 'tough' on drugs is politically safer than the uncertain ground of moderation. And so federal resistance to reform remains as adamant as ever" (Schrag 28).

One of the reasons for this is the degree to which we have allowed medical decisions to become politicized. This is clearest in the abortion debates where the question of what procedures a doctor may use and whether the health of the mother is sufficient to allow an abortion are argued as if medical opinion is not as important as political considerations. End-of-life decisions are another area where politicians are substituting their judgment for physicians and other medical professionals and for the needs of the individual patient as well. The circus atmosphere that surrounded the Terry Schiavo case a couple of years ago as medical opinion was swept aside in favor of whatever political advantage could be gained by claiming that keeping Shiavo alive was a moral decision and that she was not brain-dead at all, though it was shown clearly after she died that she was. Similarly, the federal government is do dedicated to its policy of marijuana prohibition that it ignores all evidence to the contrary, ignores the expressed will of the electorate, and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Medical Marijuana to a Great Degree.  (2007, December 12).  Retrieved December 11, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/medical-marijuana-great-degree-drug/60308

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"Medical Marijuana to a Great Degree."  Essaytown.com.  December 12, 2007.  Accessed December 11, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/medical-marijuana-great-degree-drug/60308.