Cannabis or medical marijuana is one of the most popular recreational drugs in the world. The discovery of marijuana’s medicinal properties can be traced back to China, during the reign of Emperor Shen Nung in 2700 B.C. It was considered to be able to treat a number of illnesses such as nausea, “parasitic infections, and hemorrhage.” In India, it was used to treat pain and other unwanted symptoms. Since the discovery of marijuana’s medicinal properties, scientific studies have sped up drastically to find more about the effects of marijuana. Some researchers say that marijuana can cure a myriad of conditions but some believe that the scope of marijuana in medicine is limited. In 1961, it was included as a controlled drug in the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and it is illegal in most countries. So far, cannabinoids has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve two medications that contain marijuana and it is hoped that a continued scientific study will lead to more medications that can be helpful in treating a range of symptoms and diseases. A non-profit American organization called National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) works to move public opinion in the favor of legalizing marijuana use for medical as well as recreational purposes. The organization claims that the use of marijuana in medicines should be legal and its responsible use should not be subject to penalty. Twenty-nine states of the United States have made it legal to use marijuana for medical purposes while it is still illegal in the rest of the states. Like the states of America, the science community is also divided on the opinion whether to use marijuana for curing diseases or not.
In the United States, cannabis was one of the most prescribed medicines until the government banned it in 1937. With the prohibition, its use as a medicine was restricted as well but scientist kept researching on its medical uses. In the past couple of decades, several states decided to legalize it for curing certain illnesses. Marijuana has curing properties because it contains active compounds that are quite similar to a group of molecules in our body called endocannabinoids. These molecules keep our never cells from premature death and control our immune system. Their other functions are to manage our mood, appetite, memory, sleep, movement, and sensations. Both the active compounds in marijuana and endocannabinoids are connected with proteins that are known as cannabinoid receptors in the body and the brain. That property of marijuana makes it useful for strengthening human body and mind. Several forms of these compounds are available in marijuana and can be taken in with different methods.
Medical marijuana means using the unprocessed basic extracts of marijuana plant for the treatment of different diseases. The scientific study of marijuana is known as cannabinoids and the term “Cannabis” is used for drugs produced from marijuana plants. There are two cannabinoids available which are approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are, nabilone and dronabinol. Both of them are available in the form of pills. These pills are prescribed for vomiting and nausea due to cancer chemotherapy (a treatment for cancer though drugs that stop cancer cells from growing and dividing by destroying them). Medical marijuana is not accessible from pharmacies but it can be purchased from dispensaries in a variety of preparations, or it can be grown by patients for the treatment of many illnesses. Cannabinoids can be inhaled, smoked, made into tea, or mixed with food. It can be gained by isomerisation of cannabidiol, taken in herbal form, extracted naturally from the plant, or manufactured artificially.
Many researchers have supported the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Prescribed medical marijuana includes the oromucosal spray nabiximols (a mouth spray containing cannabis extracts), capsules, dronabinol (artificial compound containing marijuana), and nabilone capsules (another man-made compound having substances similar to natural marijuana). In a study named “Medical Marijuana: Medical Necessity Versus Political Agenda,” the researchers recommend marijuana for curing certain medical problems like chronic pain, nausea, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of appetite, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis (Clark et al.). Nonetheless, a study named “Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” conducted by a group of American scientists found little proof for marijuana’s capacity to treat health conditions except spasticity (muscle stiffness) and chronic pain. The study used statistical data to show that cannabinoids are not effective in vomiting and nausea due to chemotherapy, weight gain in HIV, Tourette syndrome, and sleep disorders. It also proved that there are very little chances that medical marijuana can alleviate anxiety and help a person with depression. However, use of medical marijuana has risk of dizziness, asthenia, confusion, disorientation, balance problems, diarrhea, drowsiness, euphoria, dry mouth, hallucination, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and somnolence. Moreover, no difference of effects was found with the use of different types of marijuana (Whiting et al.)
Some women use marijuana to treat their severe nausea during pregnancy but there is no research that tells whether it is safe or harmful for the fetus, therefore doctors usually do not recommend it to a pregnant woman. Some researchers says that the risk for anencephaly (acute inborn condition in which a part of the child’s skull is not present with the cerebral hemispheres of the brain) increases with the exposure to marijuana but there is no statistical data to prove that claim and it is observed that a great number of individuals were not afflicted with anencephaly after using marijuana in pregnancy. In addition to that, the fact that there are many causes of anencephaly shows the incompatibility of blaming marijuana for anencephaly. There is study which can connect use of marijuana to the risk of miscarriage however, some connection is found between the use of the drug during pregnancy and hyperactivity disorders in children. Keeping in view the potential of marijuana to harm the developing brain of the infant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist suggests the doctors to advice women not to use marijuana, during and few months after pregnancy when the child is breastfed. However, it is true that there is a huge gap in researches on the effects of marijuana on the development of fetus, given that polices about the use of marijuana are changing and a significant number of women is using the drug for treating their nausea (Torres and Hart).
Studies have shown that there will be a considerable decrease in the opioid painkiller deaths if medical marijuana dispensaries are legalized hence medical marijuana is a potential way to eliminate the opioid epidemic. In 2015, 52,000 people died due to opioid painkiller overdoses in the United States (Multiple Cause of Death, 1999-2016 Request). The crisis was so bad in the states like New Hampshire that it became voter’s top concern. As more people talked about it and the awareness grew, an exotic policy idea was proposed to deal with the issue: legalize medical marijuana. The proponents pointed out that medical marijuana can also be used as a painkiller to substitute opioid painkillers that led to the overdose epidemic. Moreover, they emphasized that it was less addictive opioids and did not cause fatal overdoses; therefore, replacing marijuana with opioids could prevent the overdose deaths. Opioids also have worse side effects than marijuana. In addition to the risk of overdose death, the use of opioids has risk of addiction. The addiction of opioid painkillers leads to the use of heroin, which is more potent, cheaper and deadlier than the painkillers. Searches have supported the idea and it attracted the attention of lawmakers at state and federal levels (Powell et al.)
The Federal authorities of the United States have targeted dispensaries within a thousand feet of schools, playgrounds and parks contending that the legalization of medical marijuana encourages adolescents to use marijuana. In the mid-2000s, there has been dramatic increase in the percentage of use of marijuana by high school students. Federal attributed the increased use of marijuana to the growth medical marijuana industry after the legalization of medical marijuana. The former U.S. Attorneys for Colorado and the Northern California district John Walsh, sent notices to medical marijuana dispensaries within a thousand feet of schools and public places to close or relocate to another place. Similarly, local law enforcement authorities also argued about the connection between use of marijuana by youngsters and its legalization. They cited the data provided by the Department of Education which showed a drastic increase in school suspensions and expulsions due to marijuana abuse from 2008 and onwards. It is evident that the teenagers who abuse marijuana are likely to use other harmful substances like cocaine and heroin which, in turn, partake in worsening their mental health and contributes in risky sexual behavior. However, a survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that rate of marijuana abuse among twelve to seventeen years old were higher in the states which legalized medical marijuana before the passage of the law (Wall et al.).
It appears that the legalization of medical marijuana through medical marijuana laws (MML) has led to the predominance of illicit marijuana use and cannabis use disorders. For the reason that cannabis is quite a new practice, its effects on aged and ill people are relatively unknown. Aged people and the patients of AIDS and cancer can be more susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana. Medical marijuana is now legal in twenty-eight states and a large number of people are in favor of recreational use of the drug. Though some people use it without harm, marijuana abuse has potential consequences like vehicle crashes, impaired functioning, psychiatric symptoms, emergency department visits, and addiction. The adult illegal use and consequences related to it have increased gradually overtime. It increased more rapidly in states that legalized cannabis than those which did not. From 1991 to 2012, more than two million adults were diagnosed with mental disorder attributed to the use of medical marijuana. The medical marijuana laws increased potency, availability, and perceived acceptability/safety of marijuana. Many people began to use marijuana to cope with anxiety and depression, or reduced economic opportunities. Survey shows that illicit use of cannabis was higher in states which were among the first ones to legalize medical marijuana than those which legalized it later (Hasin et al.).
The opponents of legalization are of the view that if recreational marijuana is fully allowed, it would be easily accessible due to which its abuse will increase. It is believed that if medical marijuana is allowed to be used for profit, it would lead to a heavy market of drug addicts. They see the alcohol and tobacco industries as precedents and fear the consequences of legalization of cannabis. In Colorado, top few heaviest marijuana users made up almost 90% of the total demand of the drug. Experts of Drug policy have suggested alternatives to the commercial legalization. They proposed that by putting marijuana production in the care of state government, the for-profit incentives can be tamed and state will have more direct control over the prices and the consumers of the drug. Now that marijuana industry is already present in numerous states, the legalization opponents worry that legalization will certainly attract prevailing for-profit forces of materialism and greed. Due to these concerns, the opponents are in the favor of more limited reform than corroboration of marijuana. However, they believe that the prevailing drug and criminal justice rules are costly and penalizing and contributing in the mass incarceration of American citizens. They say that nonviolent users of the drug should not be imprisoned for using marijuana for medical purposes. They feel that legalization of marijuana is too liberal and it should not be used for recreational purposes because it can lead to terrible consequences.
Studies on marijuana’s effects on health make clear why opponents and proponents of legalizing medical marijuana appear to be talking about different drug. Every scientific study differs in fundamental findings, like does heavy marijuana use effects the infant, which shows that some studies has cherry-picked results without adopting proper scientific method. There are very few high-quality researches that examine marijuana’s effects on physical and mental health therefore, a very little is known about the consequences of using medical marijuana. This lack of knowledge keeps some doctors to prescribe marijuana to the patient.