Precious Perez English 102 – Mrs. Moffit July 23th, 2012 The Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana Many scientific communities around the world have compiled persuasive evidence supporting marijuana’s cannabinoid potential as a source of treatment. Analgesia, glaucoma, chemotherapy and HIV-related gastrointestinal disorders are just a few among the vast amount of afflictions which from marijuana can help provide relief. Unfortunately the United States government continues to place a negative stigma on marijuana by regulating its availability for testing as a classified “Schedule I” controlled substance through a misguided political agenda.
Until the governmental view point changes, medical marijuana will never be able to reach its full potential. The federal government claims that marijuana has no therapeutic or medicinal value and as such has classified it as a “Schedule I” controlled substance. Customarily, these classifications call for the systematic evaluation and examination of a substance, but congress has sidestepped the Controlled Substance Act and assigned it to this category without following the correct procedure. Other substances also graded within the “Schedule I” category are LSD and heroin.
Cocaine and opium are classified below marijuana in what is known as “Schedule II” because they are believed to have some known medical benefit. If scientists were given the same opportunity to study marijuana, as they did LSD in the 1950’s, it would soon be obvious that it (marijuana) has been misclassified due to political prejudice (Lee & Shalin 3-4). Because of the “Schedule I” label on cannabis, a license must be acquired from the Drug Enforcement Agency to conduct any research pertaining to the study of marijuana.
Additionally, once a license has been procured, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is responsible for supplying the marijuana used in testing. Numerous attempts to study the effects of marijuana have been blackballed by the NIDA and DEA despite their bona fide fields of study. For instance, in the 1990s, Dr. Donald Abrams, a physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, was interested in the effects that smoking marijuana would have on treating weight-loss associated with the AIDS wasting syndrome.
His study was fully funded by the University of California; and had been approved by the FDA; the University of California, San Francisco’s, Institutional Review Board; the California Research Advisory Panel; and the scientific advisory committee of the San Francisco Community Consortium (Cohen, 655). Nevertheless, the National Institute of Drug Addiction denied his application to access their stock of marijuana which, controversially, is exclusively grown for the sole purpose of scientific studies. When Dr.
Abrams petitioned the Drug Enforcement Agency for the right to import cannabis from the Netherlands for study after being rejected by the NIDA the DEA also declined his request. Another case demonstrating the government’s reluctance to explore the medicinal qualities of medical marijuana occurred in 2005, when the DEA denied the application of Lyle E. Craker, Ph. D. , a professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, for a permit to grow marijuana for sole purpose of medicinal research.
He petitioned the court to rescind this judgment and, in response, “DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner recommended that his application be granted on the grounds that the existing supply of marijuana available outside the purview of federal agencies was inadequate. She stated that as a schedule I controlled substance, Cannabis can be researched only with federal approval and that with NIDA in control of the supply for U. S. studies, the government’s tight grip was stifling the kind of research used to test other drugs with therapeutic possibilities” (qtd in Cohen, 655).
A randomized, placebo controlled study conducted by D. I. Abrams, C. A. Jay, and S. B. Shade concluded that smoked marijuana produced significant improvement in patients with chronic HIV-induced neuropathic pain. Over double the number of subjects who smoked marijuana reported a significant reduction in pain compared with the placebo group. Pain relief was rapid; the first marijuana cigarette reduced chronic pain by 72 percent while only 15 percent of the placebo group reported immediate relief.
No serious adverse events occurred during the study (515-521). It is then possible to conclude that with the correct policies for both the study and prescription of marijuana, the afore mentioned substance could provide a previously unknown, and natural source of relief for many previously hard to treat ailments. In order for marijuana to be treated as bona fide medical substance, regulations need to be put in place that clearly dictate individuals who are approved to cultivate it, limited and licensed such as those with liquor licenses.
This would provide a controlled environment in which institutions and researchers could produce marijuana without fear of government reprisal. Additionally, guidelines need to be established to regulate the protocol in which marijuana can be prescribed, i. e. doctor / patient relationship; to avoid the issue of abuse which is a key factor in the argument of medical marijuana opponents. Classified as a “gateway drug” by many people, statistically marijuana is a stepping stone on a road to addiction.
According to Joseph A. Califano Jr. , president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the use of marijuana characteristically precedes the abuse of other illegal drugs (Califano). The truth is that although cannabis may “statistically” pave the way for other drug usage, it is by far not the “gateway” that some would make it out to be “because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use”(Califano).
This fact is also quite interesting because neither of the two preceding offenders is illegal or illicit in the United States. 28 scientific studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals since 1990 demonstrated that marijuana had positive therapeutic effects in treating various medical conditions including HIV associated neuropathy, Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis related spasticity, cancer related nausea, immune function of HIV/AIDS patients, bladder control and musclespasms.
Even with the conclusive evidence brought before them congress still shows reluctance to reclassify marijuana as a “Schedule II” substance, which in effect would legally state that cannabis does indeed have medicinal properties and as such loosen the binds which currently restricts any further research into these matters.
Even former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD, stated in an editorial for the Providence Journal that there is tremendous proof that “marijuana can alleviate certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS — or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day. ” (Elders) The fact that legalizing medical marijuana in the nation’s capital has moved so far has great symbolic weight.
Thus, it is appropriate at this time to take stock of the scientific value of marijuana for medical use, the reluctance of several federal agencies to evaluate its safety and efficacy in treating (curing, ameliorating, or palliating) certain illness, and the significant policy issues raised by state legalization of medical marijuana — legalization to date unaccompanied, for the most part, by appropriate regulations based on sound science and careful policy development (Cohen). It is because of this that our governing and law making system should step away from its moral panic and mass hysteria.
It should open its eyes to the possibility of marijuana as source of not only knowledge but also of medicinal value. Works Cited Cohen, Peter J. “Medical Marijuana 2010: It’s Time to Fix the Regulatory Vacuum. ” Journal Of Law, Medicine & Ethics 38. 8 (2010): 654-666. Academic Search Premier. Web. 5 July 2012. Degenhardt, Louisa, and Wayne D. Hall. “The adverse effects of cannabinoids: implications for use of medical marijuana. ” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 17 June 2008: 1685+. Academic Search Premier. Web. July 2012. Califano, Joseph A. “Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug. ” Drug Abuse. Ed. Roman Espejo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2002. Current Controversies. Rpt. from “The Grass Roots of Teen Drug Abuse. ” Wall Street Journal 26 Mar. 1999. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 1 Aug. 2012. Lee A. Martin, Shlain Bruce. ” Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond” (1985): Web. 23 July 2012. Joycelyn, Elders. “Myths About Medical Marijuana. ” Providence Journal. (2004): n. page. Web. 1 Aug. 2012.