Marijuana has been used extensively as a medical remedy for more than five thousand years. In the early 1900s, medical usage of marijuana began to decline with the advent of alternative drugs. Injectable opiates and synthetic drugs such as aspirin and barbiturates began to replace marijuana as the physician’s drug of choice in the twentieth-century, as their results proved to be more consistent than the sometimes erratic effects of the hard-to-dose potencies of marijuana (Grinspoon).
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made cannabis so expensive to obtain that its usage as a medical remedy in the U. S. ame to a halt. Although now illegal in the U. S. , marijuana continues to be used for both medical and recreational purposes by many Americans. There are a variety of opinions both for and against the re-legalization of marijuana today. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the legalization debate is whether marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes.
All drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are federally ‘Scheduled’ by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). A drug’s scheduling under Federal law is determined according to [its] effects, medical uses, and potential for abuse (Claim V). In this classification system, marijuana is a Schedule I drug, grouped with heroin, LSD, hashish, methaqualone, and designer drugs. These are drugs having unpredictable effects, and [causing] severe psychological or physical dependence, or death (Claim V).
A closer analysis of the DEA’s Federal Scheduling system reveals that, according to various studies by physicians on both sides of the legalization debate, marijuana does not meet the requirements of a Schedule I drug, but not those of Schedule II. The difference between the two classes is that Schedule I drugs may lead to death, while those on Schedule II are less likely to do so. Proponents of legalization cite information that indicates marijuana is a relatively safe drug.
There is no known case of overdose; on the basis of animal models, the ratio of lethal to effective dose is 40,000 to 1 (Grinspoon). Even some opponents of marijuana legalization support reclassification. Two physicians, in a widely distributed opinions piece entitled Marijuana Smoking as Medicine: A Cruel Hoax, wrote; While the reclassification of THC to Schedule II might be understandable, this would not be the result of smoking the crude drug marijuana, which would as a result become more available and more eadily diverted for non-medical use (Nahas).
Although this evidence clearly does not support the legalization of marijuana, it highlights one of many discrepancies that cloud this smoky debate. Lester Grinspoon, MD, is a proponent of the medical legalization and re- classification of marijuana. In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Grinspoon wrote an article entitled A Plea for Reconsideration. In this plea, Grinspoon suggests that marijuana should be reclassified to a Schedule II class drug, so that it might be legally prescribed.
He writes: In a 1990 survey, 44% of oncologists said they had suggested hat a patient smoke marihuana for relief of the nausea induced by chemotherapy. If marihuana were actually unsafe for use under medical supervision, as its Schedule I status explicitly affirms, this recommendation would be unthinkable. It is time for physicians to acknowledge more openly that this present classification is scientifically, legally, and morally wrong. (Grinspoon) Like many other physicians fighting for the re-classification of marijuana, Dr. Grinspoon makes claims only towards the drug’s medical benefits.
However, their rhetoric in calling the issue morally wrong suggests that they may have other otives as well. Furthermore, the fact that 44% of oncologists suggested their patients use marijuana, despite its illegality, may suggest that many of these physicians have little respect for post-prohibition laws. The article also fails to address the negative side-effects of marijuana that result from smoking the plant. While there are many physicians who support the reclassification (and, sometimes, legalization) of marijuana, still others make different claims.
In July of 1995, one month after Marijuana as Medicine- A Plea for Reconsideration was published in JAMA, the Department of Health and Human Services held its irst research conference on marijuana. At this conference, several respected physicians noted that marijuana use during pregnancy has harmful effects on children’s intellectual abilities… compulsive marijuana use may lead to an addiction similar to that of other illicit drugs… (Claim V); and, finally, that marijuana use can put a serious choke-hold on users who try to quit (Claim V).
Conflicting reports, such as these, are at the center of the smoke filled battle concerning medical legalization. In this case, the physicians assembled at the conference commented only on the drug’s negative effects, and hey failed to discuss any possible beneficial effects. Although there are physicians both for and against the medical legalization of marijuana, the DEA enforces the laws. The DEA regularly makes publications against legalization. Claim V of these publications is entitled There are no Compelling Reasons to Prescribe Marijuana or Heroin to Sick people.
In this claim, the DEA makes contradictory claims to those published in JAMA by Dr. Grinspoon. The DEA claims that Not one American health association accepts marijuana as medicine. Statements issued by these organizations express concern ver the harmful effects of the drugs and over the lack of solid research demonstrating that they might do more good than harm (Claim V). However, in reading the DEA’s clam, one must keep in mind that drugs (as they use it) includes both marijuana and heroin, and therefore may be partially invalid when applied to the central marijuana debate.
By using the word they, the DEA groups marijuana with more dangerous drugs. It should also be recognized that the DEA has an obvious bias against legalizing drugs; if all drugs were legal, who would continue to pay their salaries? Doctors and the DEA, however, are not the only ones with opinions about arijuana’s medical re-legalization.
Mike Dooley, a member of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), made news when he recommended that Elvy Musikka, a patient legally supplied with marijuana from the U. S. overnment, spoke to an Experimental Living class at Western Michigan University: Elvy Musikkia, a professional speaker, has glaucoma and take marijuana as part of her treatment for the eye disease. Glaucoma patients smoke marijuana cigarettes because it relieves the eye pressure that leads to blindness (Kemp). However, Dooley supports more than the medical legalization f marijuana. Dooley says using marijuana for medical purposes is just one use of the plant, but people need to recognize that it has more positive uses (Kemp).
Like many other advocates of legalization, Dooley wants more than just medical legalization: ‘Why are we outlawing this particular plant? ‘ Dooley said. ‘What is wrong with adults smoking marijuana in their own environment? ‘ (Kemp). Opponents of legalization efforts worry that legalization for medical purposes will eventually lead to non-medical abuse. An example of this type of medical abuse can be found in the 1995 Comedy, Friday. In the film, a corrupted priest tries to obtain marijuana from Smokey, a neighborhood pot addict.
Upon noticing the marijuana, he says Excuse me brother, what we call drugs at 74th street Baptist Church, we call a sin (Friday), representing the views of many Christians today. Only a short time later, however, he changes his mind, saying: Why don’t you give me a little bit for my cataracts? (Friday). This film makes a comment on the attitudes of U. S. society today towards marijuana, and re-legalization. By making a medical excuse for using marijuana in the film, Brother William conveys the worries of any Americans today about medical legalization of the drug.
While it may be suggested that Friday is satirist comedy, and therefore not real, critics of the film and of legalization will point out that later in the movie, the characters make an outright plea for legalization. Religious figures in real life express stronger anti-legalization opinions than those in the movies. In 1986, representatives of four Oregon church groups, representing a combined membership of tens of thousands, unveiled a plan to attack the proposed legalization of marijuana from the pulpit (Danks).
The representatives cited experiences like those Reverend John Jackson; Jackson spoke about how his son’s drug habit broke up the family. ‘It got to the point that I kept a weapon,’ Jackson said. ‘My son didn’t act like my son. I got to the point where I thought if he came into the room I would kill him (Danks). Many would be quick t discount the reverend’s opinion, however, especially after hearing of his fatal mentality. It should also be noted that Jackson’s son, who is now in the army, graduated to harder drugs after using marijuana as a 10- year-old (Danks).
Other religious groups have more extreme views on legalization. In an n-line publication entitled Marijuana and Christians: Cure or Curse? , a group for Aggressive Christianity writes that: Through the innocently appearing guise of the ‘natural herbal high’ called marijuana, Satan has found an open doorway for invasion into the minds of millions of people (Marijuana and Christians). These Aggressive Christians decree that marijuana is one of Satan’s tools and should not be legalized for any purpose. However, in calling it Satan’s tool they incorporate little knowledge of the drug’s true effects, both positive and negative.
For these extremists, there is apparently no reason for Satanists not to use marijuana. Groups such as these Aggressive Christians represent the most conservative side of the battle over legalization. College campuses are often recognized for their liberal views and high drug consumption levels. Adam Djurdjulov, a journalism senior and Arizona Daily Wildcat opinions editor writes a column that appears in that publication on Mondays. In his column, titled Airing it Out, he recently wrote an article, Smoking marijuana is as accepted as the word ‘damn. In this column, Djurdjulov criticizes the increasing acceptance of marijuana use.
He states his un-professional medical opinion on marijuana, saying it [is] a substance that estroys motivation and wazzu brain cells (Djurdjulov). Although he makes a valid argument that drug use proliferates on today’s college campuses, Djurdjulov weakens his own credibility when he suggests that Americans ‘kick out’ Bill Clinton from President of the United States for exercising his right to free speech, writing Hell, on MTV in June 1992, Clinton quipped that if he tried marijuana again, he would inhale (Djurdjulov).
Although many Americans might disagree with Clinton’s liberal policies towards drug use, few would condone his removal from office, solely for exercising his first amendment rights. Like the Aggressive Christians, Djurdjulov’s non-scientific, extremist position somewhat destroys his credibility, along with the credibility of his statements. Other college students feel differently about legalization. Oliver Petri, a freshman at the University of Arizona, is a proponent of marijuana legalization for medical and recreational purposes. In an interview, Petri explains that I once knew a woman with cancer.
She grew [marijuana] plants in her backyard and smoked weed to relive her suffering. It should totally be legal (Petri). Petri’s comments epitomize the views of many college students who advocate legalization. Few of these students, however, have any knowledge of the medical uses and properties of the drug they consume for recreational purposes. Petri also admittedly supports medical legalization initiatives because he thinks it will make marijuana easier to find. California’s proposition 215 is an initiative that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. Proposition 215] would permit patients with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, arthritis, and other serious illnesses to grow, posses and use marijuana (Lacayo).
Despite criticism of Prop 215 that suggests the initiative is too loosely constructed, polls show that California voters favor t by almost 2-1 (Lacayo). Opponents of the initiative worry that anyone will be able to legally obtain and use marijuana under Proposition 215, ‘This proposition is not about medicine,’ charges Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates, co-chairman of Citizens for a Drug Free California, the campaign opposing Prop 215. It’s about the legalization of marijuana’ (Lacayo).
Voters like Sheriff Gates are unable to consider medical legalization because of their fears of increased recreational use. There opinion, then, means nothing when applied to the issue on a smaller scale. Reputable sources on marijuana’s true effects are hard to come by. Conflicting reports suggest that personal opinion might be more of a factor than it should be in many reports about the drug’s effects and toxicity.
Words such as dangerous and harmful are often used by figures on both sides of the legalization debate, with little explanation of their definitions. No-one knows what the results of a non-biased study on marijuana’s medical future might contain, because conflicting non-biased studies continue to proliferate on both sides of this debate. Because of the wide availability of marijuana today, it is not surprising that marijuana usage for many today is a personal, rather than legal, decision.