First Period English 10 Honors
August 23, 1998
English 10 Honors
August 23, 1998
Marijuana is the focus of more debate today than any other drug. This conflict has recently intensified due to propositions passed in Arizona and California that allow the medical use of marijuana to treat serious illnesses. Recent public opinion polls have shown that 70 percent or more of Americans support the legal use of marijuana in the treatment of serious diseases (Brazaitis C1+). Many people have tried marijuana and found that reduces their ailments without excessive detrimental side-effects. Therefore, due to its medical uses and limited serious side-effects, marijuana should be legalized for medical use in the United States.
Marijuana has many beneficial medical uses. Of its many medical applications the most common medical use for marijuana is as an appetite stimulant and as a control for nausea. The symptoms of chemotherapy are reduced by marijuana. In fact, Marinol, the commercial name for synthetic THC, was approved to relieve nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients. Also, marijuana proper was proven to be effective in the prevention of nausea for chemotherapy patients. Fourty-four percent of oncologists suggested the use of marijuana to control nausea for their chemotherapy patients in a 1990 survey (Grinspoon 1875-76).
The antinausea quality of marijuana also aids in the treatment of those with AIDS or HIV. It helps to alleviate the loss of appetite and vomiting caused by the AIDS wasting syndrome. Moreover, protease inhibitors, new antiviral
drugs used in AIDS treatment, cause extreme nausea that marijuana helps to control (Fackelmann 15-18). ?Thousands of patients with cancer, AIDS, and other diseases report they have obtained striking relief from these devastating symptoms by smoking marijuana . . . The alleviation of distress can be so striking that some patients and their families have been willing to risk a jail term,? wrote Jerome P. Kassiner, chief editor of the New England Journal of Medicine (Fackelmann 15-18). Some have even proposed that marijuana be used as treatment for anorexia nervosa because of its stimulus to the appetite (Marijuana and Health 13).
In addition to appetite stimulus, marijuana has many uses due to its control of nervous reflexes. THC, the active chemical in marijuana, may aid in the treatment and control of heart attacks (Marijuana and Heath 13). Fackelmann suggests that based on lab findings, marijuana can be used to reduce the symptoms of Huntington?s disease and spinal cord injuries (15-18). Furthermore, it has been found useful in the treatment of Gulf War syndrome (Brazaitis C1+). Cannabidiol, another component of marijuana, was shown to calm abnormal movements in five people suffering from dystonia, a condition in which muscles spasm (Fackelmann 15-18). Lastly, in people suffering from multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, THC may help control muscle spasms as indicated by preliminary research (Marijuana and Health 13).
Marijuana contains other chemicals that give it many other medical uses. The largest of these applications is glaucoma, an eye disease characterized by abnormally high eye fluid pressure and loss of vision. The National Academy of Science accepts that marijuana reduces pressure in the eyes of patients suffering from glaucoma which, incidentally, is the leading cause of blindness in the United States (Armentano 137). More specifically, THC has been shown to
reduce pressures within the eyes of glaucoma patients, and thus save the retina from damage. Other uses for marijuana include the relief of phantom limb cramps, menstrual pains, and other chronic pain such as migraines (Grinspoon 1875-76). THC has even been shown to prolong the lives of cancerous mice. Furthermore, THC has delayed the rejection of skin grafts and thus has increased the chances of the body accepting the grafts. (Marijuana and Health 13)
Even if marijuana does have beneficial effects upon the body and mind, its use must be proven without significant side-effects if it is slated to be legalized. The greatest of these unintended effects are upon the physical body. Marijuana smoke has been proven to decrease sperm production, but it does not seem to cause infertility. Likewise, marijuana use inhibits ovulation without disturbing estrogenic activity. Heavy use of marijuana for six to eight weeks has been shown to cause a mild obstruction to person?s airways. Though this may cause some damage to the lungs, tobacco smoke has much more dramatic effects. Another major physical effect is related to the immune system. Marijuana lowers the capacity of white blood cells to fight infection, as proven through multiple studies. However, even though marijuana reduces the body?s ability to fight infection, it has never been proven to increase the symptoms of AIDS. (Hollister 662) It also does not accelerate the rate at which HIV-positive individuals develop AIDS (Armentano 137).
Marijuana also has certain mental effects upon those who use it. According to Grinspoon it is addictive, but less addictive than muscle relaxants, hypnotics, and analgesics (1875-76). If marijuana is used improperly, it many contribute to accidents on the road or at work. However, alcohol and other pain killers have similar if not worse consequences. Lastly, the use of marijuana has been proven to worsen schizophrenia (Hollister 661).
The use of marijuana bears no great dangers. In fact, the ratio of lethal dose to effective dose is 40,000 to 1, and there is no known case of lethal overdose (Grinspoon 1875-76). Many experts even agree that marijuana is less toxic than cocaine or heroin (Voelker 1645-48). Although marijuana smoke contains more tar and particles than tobacco smoke, much less marijuana is needed for an effective dose (Grinspoon 1875-76). Indeed, Francis L. Young, the former chief law judge of the Drug Enforcement Agency said that marijuana is ?one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man (Armentano 137).? Therefore, if marijuana actually deserves its Schedule I status, it must be proven to be unsafe even as a drug for dying patients, which it clearly does not due to its frequency of recommendation for patients (Grinspoon 1875-76).
Today, Marinol is the only legal alternative to marijuana. Yet, marijuana is superior to Marinol due to several factors. Most importantly, the method of administration of marijuana is superior to that of Marinol. Marijuana is easier to regulate with respect to dosage and duration of THC than orally taken Marinol. The pill form of Marinol has a delayed effect; whereas, inhalation of marijuana smoke delivers an immediate dosage (Fackelmann 15-18). John P. Morgan, MD, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine says that when marijuana is smoked, the THC is absorbed much faster into the body than when one orally takes Marinol (Voelker 1645-48). In addition to being easier to administer, marijuana is also less toxic than the Marinol for which it is substituted (Armentano 137). A physician testified before a Drug Enforcement Agency hearing to report that in a 1978 to 1986 research program, marijuana was found to be superior to synthetic THC in controlling nausea for chemotherapy patients (Grinspoon 1875-76). Moreover, Marinol appears to cause high levels of
anxiety and depression that marijuana does not (Brookhiser 9). In support of the use of marijuana Kevin B. Zeese, an attorney and president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, says that many patients are forced to discontinue their chemotherapy because they can not take Marinol which must be swallowed to control their unrelenting vomiting (Fackelmann 15-18).
The legalization of marijuana for medical use continues to be a subject of much debate. Some feel that it should be completely banned while others would like to see it approved for all uses. I feel that a middle path is appropriate. Marijuana should only be legalized for the treatment of chronic diseases and pain. It is a drug, and like all drugs the potential for abuse exists. However, marijuana clearly has many beneficial functions that no other drugs can simulate. If it were partially legalized, the government could then control its use and distribution. As Professor Lynn Zimmer, a sociologist at Queens College, asserted, ?The War on Drugs is really a war on marijuana? (Nadelmann 51-53+).
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