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Medical Marijuana - The Debate Rages On
Marijuana is also known as pot, grass and weed but its formal name is actually cannabis. It comes from the leaves and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa. It is considered an illegal substance in the US and many countries and possession of marijuana is a crime punishable by law. The FDA classifies marijuana as Schedule I, substances which have a very high potential for abuse and have no proven medical use. Over the years several studies claim that some substances found in marijuana have medicinal use, especially in terminal diseases such as cancer and AIDS. This started a fierce debate over the pros and cons of the use of medical marijuana. To settle this debate, the Institute of Medicine published the famous 1999 IOM report entitled Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. The report was comprehensive but did not give a clear cut yes or no answer. The opposite camps of the medical marijuana issue often cite part of the report in their advocacy arguments. However, although the report clarified many things, it never settled the controversy once and for all.
Let's look at the issues that support why medical marijuana should be legalized.
(1) Marijuana is a naturally occurring herb and has been used from South America to Asia as an herbal medicine for millennia. In this day and age when the all natural and organic are important health buzzwords, a naturally occurring herb like marijuana might be more appealing to and safer for consumers than synthetic drugs.
(2) Marijuana has strong therapeutic potential. Several studies, as summarized in the IOM report, have observed that cannabis can be used as analgesic, e.g. to treat pain. A few studies showed that THC, a marijuana component is effective in treating chronic pain experienced by cancer patients. However, studies on acute pain such as those experienced during surgery and trauma have inconclusive reports. A few studies, also summarized in the IOM report, have demonstrated that some marijuana components have antiemetic properties and are, therefore, effective against nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects of cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some researchers are convinced that cannabis has some therapeutic potential against neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Specific compounds extracted from marijuana have strong therapeutic potential. Cannobidiol (CBD), a major component of marijuana, has been shown to have antipsychotic, anticancer and antioxidant properties. Other cannabinoids have been shown to prevent high intraocular pressure (IOP), a major risk factor for glaucoma. Drugs that contain active ingredients present in marijuana but have been synthetically produced in the laboratory have been approved by the US FDA. One example is Marinol, an antiemetic agent indicated for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Its active ingredient is dronabinol, a synthetic delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
(3) One of the major proponents of medical marijuana is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a US-based organization. Many medical professional societies and organizations have expressed their support. As an example, The American College of Physicians, recommended a re-evaluation of the Schedule I classification of marijuana in their 2008 position paper. ACP also expresses its strong support for research into the therapeutic role of marijuana as well as exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning for physicians who prescribe or dispense medical marijuana in accordance with state law. Similarly, protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.
(4) Medical marijuana is legally used in many developed countries The argument of if they can do it, why not us? is another strong point. Some countries, including Canada, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, and Finland have legalized the therapeutic use of marijuana under strict prescription control. Some states in the US are also allowing exemptions.
Why Should Marijuana Be Legalized?
In 2012 six-year-old Jayden David, who suffers from Dravet's Syndrome, was given liquefied cannabis drops and for the first time since he was four months old, went an entire day without a seizure. At one point, Jayden was prescribed 22 anti-seizure pills a day, and while they controlled the seizures, the pills left him immobilized due to the side effects. But a non-psychoactive form of marijuana that does not get him high, has now allowed him to run and play like other kids. Jayden and millions of people around the world, who suffer from a variety of ailments, benefit from the medicinal qualities of high cannabinoid or high CBD marijuana strains. Cannabinoids are the main chemicals in marijuana. In recent years, various research and experiments have resulted in production of high CBD marijuana strains and in a large percent of these strains, THC is non-existent. But it doesn't take research to know that inhaling any kind of smoke into your lungs is bad for your health. Because of this, new ways to administer medical marijuana are being invented so the patient no longer has to smoke to medicate. Cannabinoids can be so beneficial; the human brain has two built-in cannabinoid receptors, which regulate certain body functions. These are just some of the advances in the research and study of high CBD medical marijuana in the 21st century.
Cannabinoids are the main medicinal ingredient in marijuana. While THC is the main psychoactive ingredient, cannabinoids are known to have anti-psychotic properties, which counter the effects of THC. With this in mind, production labs are now growing strains of marijuana that contain a high concentration of CBD's. Some of these strains have CBD concentrations as high as 20%, which allow people living with illness to benefit from medical marijuana without the high associated with THC. Up until recently, a big concern for some, was the fact that in order to use medical marijuana, an individual had to get high as a side effect. That made many question the intentions of a so-called medical marijuana patient. Does he or she really have an ailment or do they just want to get high? With high CBD strains, getting high is no longer a factor while medicating with marijuana. Therefore these strains will make it safe for everyone, from small kids to elderly adults, to medicate without concern of any intoxicating effects. The development of high CBD marijuana should continue to help completely remove the stigma from its medical use.
There was a time when if a patient wanted to use medical marijuana, not only did they have to get high, they had to smoke it. Smoking anything involves inhaling harmful chemicals into your lungs that were released as the medium burned. Today there are numerous ways of administering and self-dosing medical marijuana. They range from vaporizing, cooking, and drinks, to oral sprays and tinctures. Vaporizing involves heating marijuana to a point where it produces a vapor, then inhaling the vapor into the lungs. For smokers, vaporizing is the non-smoked method most often recommended as an alternative to smoking because vaporization releases about 5 compounds, whereas smoking marijuana releases about 111 different compounds. Cooking with medical marijuana involves heating marijuana and butter. The butter traps the chemicals and is then used in any dish of the patient's choice. Various drinks can also be made with the butter or some can be bought already made. Tonics and tinctures are made when marijuana is soaked in an alcohol solution, transferring the cannabinoids to the liquid. The tincture can then be rubbed on skin, taken by drops or sprayed into the mouth and put into foods and drink recipes as well. Medical marijuana also comes in the forms of ready-made candy and various other sweets, all of the high CBD form. Still, as with any type of medication, the attractively packaged items should be kept out of reach of children.