Marijuana: Beneficial and Risky
Should there be a national legalization of marijuana as a prescription and clinical drug for medicinal treatment? Imagine a loved one lying in bed at a hospital and have just undergone chemotherapy for their cancer treatment. Side effects of chemotherapy have begun and that individual cannot stop from constantly vomiting. Every type of medication prescribed by the doctor has absolutely no effect in relieving the unbearable pain of nausea and headache. The news of medical marijuana as a treatment and pain reliever is nothing new. Patients in other states and countries describe marijuana as the only drug that has a treatment advantage over prescription and medicinal drugs. It may be the only option to relieve their emotional and physical pain. Unfortunately, there is no legalization of marijuana use as medical treatment in their residing state, so what is the next best option? A group of science and medical researchers led by Sunil K. Aggarwal argues that there are many proven medical benefits of marijuana, but another science journalist, Colin Lowry, disputes that marijuana has psychologically damaging effects.
First of all, Dr. Sunil K. Aggarwal's arguments about the medical benefits have both supporting evidence and facts. However, he does agree with Lowry, to the point that not all cannabis substances are beneficial. He refutes that although, the substances of marijuana do have the risks of side effects, but those risks are nothing serious. In addition, the use of marijuana as medicinal treatment is the safest compared to other pharmaceutical drugs on the market. Unlike opiods, cannabinoid, medicines do not promote appetite loss, wasting, and constipation, but instead [is for] therapeutically treating these symptoms (Medicinal Cannabis 163). The side effects of marijuana are not long term, but rather temporary and diminishing. Moreover, Lowry states that the substances of marijuana do not contain any medical value, and that the effects are damaging to the brain and body. Lowry writes, "Studies of performance requiring auditory attention in people who have smoked only one marijuana cigarette show impaired performance, and this is associated with a substantial decrease in blood flow to the temporal lobe of the brain" (Lowry 16). He clarifies that psychological damage to the brain is permanent and it includes the functioning of motor neurons and an individual's concentration. Furthermore, he argues that the positive effects of marijuana use are not effective in treating symptoms of illness or pain. THC is not very effective in treating nausea, and the doses required for a modest effect are strongly hallucinogenic (Lowry 17). Thus, the THC chemical can cause hallucinations in MM patients.
Furthermore, medical marijuana is a controversial issue dealing with the health concerns of patients. Like other prescription drugs, medical marijuana, has its side effects. Other prescription drugs, such as Marinol, are not as effective and may actually have side effects predominant to the side effects of consuming marijuana. Even if doctors and physicians properly exploit and prescribe the marijuana treatment, there will still be risks of serious side effects. Nevertheless, improper or long-term usage of marijuana is the cause of the most dangerous side effects. However, the chance of overdosing on marijuana is slim to none. Most importantly, there has never been an overdose death on marijuana in history, while there reportedly, are countless overdose deaths on alcohol consumption. On the contrary, marijuana is a major concern of drug trafficking around the world. The rate of illegal marijuana use is rapidly increasing because of the lack of regulation and punishment against drug users. Could the potential benefits of legalizing marijuana for medicinal use possibly outweigh the risk of encouraging drug abuse (Mack and Joy)? The benefits of decriminalizing medical marijuana (MM) are indisputable; however, the risks of side effects and abuse may ultimately be harmful to society.
Also, from the dawn of time, the use of marijuana embarked as a healing herb and as a recreational drug. There is a long history of cannabis use; the plant essentially named cannabis derives the term marijuana. Medicinal uses for cannabis date back to 2737 B.C., when the Chinese emperor and pharmacologist Shen Neng prescribed the drug for gout, malaria, beriberi, rheumatism, and memory problems (Earlywine 168). The use of cannabis and marijuana seeds was significant as a ritual and healing treatment in the ancient times. Since then, the beliefs of cannabis treatment and therapy spread throughout other countries. The cannabis ingredients, THC and other cannabinoid chemical compounds, are potentially beneficial as a remedy. In modern day, law enforcers have incarcerated illegal marijuana users and major drug smugglers all around the world. Marijuana is a prolific drug that is highly profitable due to its high demand. The more demand of marijuana, the more desirable it is to obtain the substance. Drug users sway toward this drug as they hope it will be a remedy to rid them of stress, environmental issues, and other mental problems.
Additionally, a main reason for legalizing medical marijuana is that its benefits towards medical advancement are astonishing. There is no denying about the benefits of MM. There have been statistics proven that marijuana treatment prescribed by doctors are effective in treating and reducing ill symptoms both physically and mentally. MM consists of an active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which provides medical benefits. Essentially, the compound of THC can prevent clotting of blood vessels and other protective effects.
In addition, benefits of marijuana include numbing pain, relieving stress, improving appetite, and advancements toward medical treatment. In the article, Marijuana as Medicine, Mack and Joy described stories of several patients who consumed marijuana to deal with nausea and vomiting in the course of chemotherapy. These stories are significant and are a major factor in determining whether marijuana could be a proven treatment. Debra J. Saunders, a syndicated columnist, argues that marijuana can help many seriously ill patients and that its use for medical purposes [ought to] be legalized (Minamide 12). Furthering her argument, she explains that only a physician's permission determines the administration of medical marijuana. According to Representative Mark Souder (R-IN), the debate is over the most scientifically safe and effective way [those] components of marijuana [are] used as medicine (Chapkis and Webb 70). Souder explains the need for a harmless and genuine medicinal drug with little to no risks of side effects. As Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug abuse, explained, cannabis is not just a single drug...it contains more than 400 chemicals (Chapkis and Webb 71). Volkow believes that the components inside MM are beneficial as a medical drug, but both of them disagree on the drug, itself as medical. Volkow suggests further research on acquiring the beneficial components in marijuana and combining it with another artificial pharmaceutical component resulting in an enhanced medicine. With 400 chemicals in marijuana, there are destined to be more harmful chemicals in association to the THC ingredient. MM acts as a pain reliever for a short period of time; however, the longer marijuana dosage, the more harmful it may be to the body. Opponents of MM fear, not only the addiction and side effects of marijuana, itself, but also the harm it may bring to society, such as increased drug trafficking, and worldwide abuse; children and teenagers may easily gain access to marijuana.
In fact, large doses of MM will cause adverse side effects, including mental disorders. Although, side effects of consumed MM do not last long and will usually vanish after a few hours, the THC content, itself, may remain inside the body. There is no evidence MM has any superior benefits than other standard medication, such as oral THC. Souder and Volkow agree on the significant benefits of marijuana; however, they do not agree on the side effects. Numerous studies have found that marijuana smoke produces pulmonary damage similar to that produced by tobacco smoke, only more severe (Minamide 35). The harm of smoking marijuana relates to that of smoking tobacco. Why is that? Marijuana contains some of the same ingredients that are in tobacco. Recent research suggests, for example, that some middle-aged users might face an elevated risk of heart attack, especially those with unrecognized coronary disease (Chapkis and Webb 116). How can a drug viewed as harmful be a medicine? Marijuana is a hallucinogenic drug and is psychologically damaging to a consumer. Smoking marijuana is the worst form of consumption; smoking marijuana is also the more effective in treatment. The effects of MM relieves pain, but once it wears-off, the pain may re-emerge and worsen. Thus, MM is likely a temporary pain and stress reliever.
With the ongoing debate, many professors speak their point of view on this issue. Joel W. Hay, a professor at the University of Southern California explains, "With all of our current problems, Americans do not need more marijuana. Pot combines mind-altering and judgment-clouding qualities (like alcohol) with carcinogenic, respiratory, and second-hand smoke qualities (like tobacco); it is emphatically not a safe or benign substance (Duber). Hay relates the potential risks of using marijuana to the effects of other substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. He does not agree that marijuana is beneficial, but instead believes that it is harmful and unacceptable to society. Jeffrey A. Miron, a director at Harvard University, begs to differ. As Miron reported, "legalized marijuana would likely be subject to the kind of regulation and taxation that currently applies to alcohol and tobacco — e.g., sin taxes and age restrictions — but it would otherwise be no different under the law than an espresso at Starbucks" (Duber). He argues that medical marijuana would do no further harm to society. His explanation continues that because of the restrictions of marijuana possession, it will only increase worldwide aggression and hatred.
Finally, criminals constrained by the restrictions of marijuana are only convicted as criminals because of their possession of an illegal substance. There is no proven statistics revealing whether possession and consumption of marijuana initially causes crime. What would have altered if marijuana were a legal substance way before it became a major crime to possess, consume, and barter? Would criminals who have been arrested for marijuana possession regarded at this point as non-criminal, taking in consideration marijuana possession was their only criminal offense? Then again, MM is not an argument of decriminalizing marijuana, it is an argument of legalizing it. Whichever way to look at it, illegal use of marijuana will always be a crime, whether there is a legalization of MM or not. Legalization of MM is an opportunity to relieve thousands of suffering patients; it is not a motive or encouragement for people to use or sell an illegal substance to get the feeling of euphoria and profit.
In conclusion, a legalization of MM will not guarantee safe regulation. Legalizing marijuana can even allow a greater likelihood for drug users to evade charges with illegal use and possession by simply proclaiming their usage was for medicinal purposes. Most argue that a legalization of marijuana for medicinal reasons will lead to a chain reaction. A cause and effect ordeal may occur, in which the legalization of MM may encourage the use of drugs, besides marijuana, as a cure. This encouragement of using informal drugs as a cure can lead to a wrong impression for children and teenagers. For many supporters of MM, it is just another reason to legalize all uses of marijuana, both medically and recreational. A doctor prescribing patients with a dosage of marijuana would not acknowledge how much the patient will ultimately consume. Once a patient begins to feel nauseated or stressed, he or she will consume marijuana. He or she may not become addicted to the drug, but will probably be psychologically dependent upon using marijuana since it will be the only drug effective in treating his or her pain. Marijuana may not be subject to addiction, death by overdose, or a gateway drug, but there is absolutely no guarantee of the safe practices worldwide; the potential of abuse will always be a major concern.