Use of Marijuana As Medicine
If your every waking moment was consumed by pain and nausea, wouldn’t
you ask for medication? What if the only medication legally available would
leave you unconscious or do nothing at all? If you were the one suffering, would
you resort to the only treatment that allowed you to live normally even though
it was illegal? Thousands of people across the country are forced to break the
law to ease their pain. They have chosen marijuana over anything legally
available because it has various medicinal properties that cannot be found
anywhere else. Due to these many unique medicinal uses, marijuana should be
reclassified as a valid, legal form of treatment.
Marijuana has many unique uses as a form of treatment. It has been used
effectively to combat the nausea caused by chemotherapy, to reduce the internal
pressure of the eyes of glaucoma patients, and to prevent the wasting syndrome
in AIDS and cancer patients (Marijuana for the Sick A10). As an alternative to
using actual marijuana, modern science has developed a synthetic form of THC,
the active chemical in marijuana. However, this synthetic drug, called Marinol,
is useless for most everyday treatment because it has the unpleasant side effect
of being a powerful sedative. A member of Milwaukee’s AIDS community, said that
a friend of his was taking Marinol to increase his appetite: He spends the
whole day laughing and watching movies…He can’t even drive a car because he’s
so out of it. (3/25/97) In addition to that, Marinol only comes in pill form,
which makes it useless for patients taking it for nausea. Marijuana has neither
of those drawbacks. Because it is usually smoked, even the most nauseous patient
can use it as well as easily regulate their intake (Medical Marijuana 23). No
prescription drug offers the benefits and potential of marijuana.
Many people have testified to marijuana’s validity as a unique form of
treatment. One of these, Robert Randall, one of only eight patients supplied
with marijuana by the federal government, was diagnosed with acute glaucoma and
told that he would be blinded within five years (Brazaitis 1C). Randall
discovered by accident that smoking marijuana relieved the internal pressure of
his eyes (1C). After more than twenty years of smoking marijuana, Randall still
has his vision, defying the predictions of his doctors (2C). Richard Brookhiser,
a senior editor of the conservative National Review who has admitted to using
marijuana to treat the nausea caused by chemotherapy, claims that if that
moment comes to you, you will turn to marijuana. (Brookhiser 28) Rita Zweig
further illustrates marijuana’s effectiveness: If anything that is prescribed
worked as well for me, she said, I wouldn’t use marijuana. (Snider A1) These
three people represent thousands of sufferers across the country who use
marijuana as a form of treatment.
Marijuana as a form of treatment has gained support from the medical
community. Such prestigious medical publications as the New England Medical
Journal have come out in support of medicinal uses for marijuana (Milwaukee
Journal Sentinel 1/30/97 3A). In addition to that, a Harvard study showed that
nearly 44% of doctors who treat cancer patients in the American Medical
Association, a group officially opposed to marijuana, have actually recommended
marijuana to ease the pain of their patients (Medical Marijuana 22). Even
with this support, the federal government has refused any sort of clinical
testing or reclassifying.
Because of its medicinal value and the lack of an effective substitute,
marijuana should be reclassified as a Schedule II drug instead of a Schedule I
drug, which would allow it for certain medical uses. Other illegal drugs such as
cocaine and heroin are classified as Schedule II, even though they are
considered habit forming and dangerous, where marijuana, classified as a
Schedule I, has never caused a death or overdose and is not considered addictive.
The federal government refuses to reclassify marijuana because there is no
proof that smoked marijuana is the most effective available treatment for
anything. (McCaffrey 27) There can be no proof until marijuana has been tested
in a series of clinical trials. There can be no clinical testing of marijuana
because the federal government will not allow them (Conant 26). Anyone who has
read the book Catch-22 will find this situation familiar.
The government opponents of medicinal marijuana are against it for
political rather than practical reasons. Clinton, who suffered in the polls
after he admitted to smoking pot, has taken a strong anti-drug stance to follow
in the popular vein of Reagan and Bush’s war on drugs. Congress has taken a
strong anti-drug stance, which could be viewed as another example of Congress’
detachment from the people they represent, since 35 states have laws that allow
marijuana for medicinal use in certain circumstances. The newly passed
referendums in Arizona and California demonstrate popular support of these laws,
and that they couldn’t be passed through California’s legislature also
demonstrates the representative’s isolation from the voters. Federal law, which
bans marijuana for all uses, makes all these state laws illegal. This issue
represents the power struggle between the state governments and the federal
government. The federal government has no constitutional right to ban drugs,
especially not if it overrides a state law. This issue has become more than just
marijuana for treatment of the sick, it has grown to include the federal
government’s desire to maintain its dominance over the state governments.
Unfortunately, people whose morality and patriotism prevent them from using
marijuana to treat their cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, or other illness pay the price.
The other opponents of marijuana as a form of medical treatment have
presented several illogical arguments against it. Many opponents argue that
marijuana is a gateway drug that often leads to harder drugs. This argument is
easily disproved by the fact that use of hard drugs in the Netherlands has
decreased significantly since marijuana was legalized (Medical Marijuana 23)u.
Parents are often worried that prescription marijuana will mean that more of it
will get into the hands of kids. Some of these parents have prescriptions for
Morphine, Prozac, Zoloft, Dexedrine, or countless other mood-altering drugs
which they successfully keep out of their children’s hands.
Marijuana should reclassified so its unique medicinal value can be
legally utilized to treat patients. How long would the loudest opponent of
medicinal marijuana live incapacitated by nausea or Marinol before he would turn
to marijuana? Maybe opponents should spend a month or two in chemotherapy before
they deny patients the most effective means of relief.
Brazaitis, Tom. “The Illegal Wonder Drug.” Plain Dealer 2 July. 1995:
“Journal backs medicinal use of marijuana.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
30 Jan. 1997: 3A.
“Marijuana for the Sick.” New York Times 30 Dec. 1996: A10.
Conant, Marcus. “This Is Smart Medicine.” Newsweek 3 Feb. 1997: 26.
McCaffrey, Barry. “We’re on a Perilous Path.” Newsweek 3 Feb. 1997: 27.
“Medical Marijuana. “Issues and Controversies on File” 10 Jan. 1997: 22-23.
Brookhiser, Richard. “Pot Luck.” National Review 11 Nov. 1996: 27-28.
Snider, Burr. “Inside a Marijuana Pharmacy.” San Francisco Examiner 3
July. 1994: A1-A2.