The use of Cannabis sativa or most commonly called Marijuana has been and is still considered a very contentious issue. With the general public split into two opposing ideas, the use of this plant has been extensively discussed in many countries even up to the house of legislations. With this ever growing trend in the use of Cannabis, it is but proper to identify for ourselves why Cannabis should be used in the world of medicine and pharmaceutics.
With the public legislators and advocacies at both against and in support of the use of Cannabis, remaining silent and waiting for what the outcome would be is a very passive way of becoming a more productive individual. In this light, this paper was conceived for the sole purpose of persuading the young minds into making a move regarding this issue of the use of marijuana in medicine. More than that, since there is a deficit of knowledge regarding this issue, it is but necessary to dig up the past and start from ground zero.
Gradually, the paper would come to identify the reasons and salient points as to why the use of marijuana in medicine is a justifiable act. It should be regarded, however, that although this paper would elucidate the reasons as to why medicinal use of marijuana should be allowed in the United States, the use of marijuana for recreational use would not be explored by the writer. Cannabis sativa is a species grown from the procurement of marijuana, hashish and hash oil and has been identified a family of Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis (Campbell, 2001).
THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana which is claimed to be a substance of potential abuse (Spinella, 2001). This image of Cannabis as a much abused plant for recreational purpose paved the way for its being included in the Controlled Substances Act. However, because of marijuana’s being overshadowed by its possibility if being abused plus the false claims against it, many people failed and is still failing to see the benefits that we may get from its being used in the medicinal aspect.
It may also be used for fuel and paper production, as well as producing oil which can be used in a variety of products. The specific use of marijuana which stands out amongst all is that it can be a depressant and is a mood-altering herb. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) under the Comprehensive Drug Act was a federal law which consolidated the laws regarding the usage of narcotics and illicit drugs. This CSA contains five sections of controlled substance which section I being the most dangerous and section being the least dangerous narcotics and drugs.
The thing that enrages many people, especially the advocates of medical use of marijuana, is the fact that marijuana is stashed in the first section which makes it much impossible to legalize and make use of this drug for the sole purpose of alleviating the sufferings of people and treating them for their survival. Several reasons are stated why this happened: (1) marijuana has a very big potential for abuse, (2) there is no presently established medical use in the treatment of people with the use of marijuana and (3) is that there is a lack of conventional protection for using marijuana even under medical surveillance.
In the United States, there are currently several states which have legalized the use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes. The law however only covers protection from State law and not from Federal Law. Since the federal laws are not showing any indication in changing their status regarding the non-usage of marijuana even for medicinal purposes, these states have initiated a voting process with the general public regarding the legalization of marijuana’s medicinal use in that certain state.
Just lately, in the Vermont General Assembly of 2004, the state officials have stated that the Medical Marijuana Act that they have put into effect does not violate Federal Laws for the reason that (1) 99 out of 100 criminal arrests regarding the use of marijuana involves State Laws rather than Federal laws and (2) protecting the medicinal use of marijuana would save the arrest of many people who are in dire need of marijuana-containing medicines and (3) there is a non-indication of the Federal government to change their policy with regards to medical use of marijuana (Medical Marijuana Bill, 2003).
Several other states are also showing the potential of following the footsteps of these states into legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana. The fact that there is a continuous unsettlement with regards to the use of marijuana for medical purposes makes it somehow inevitable to think that indeed, marijuana really possesses important and significant substances which can be of great medicinal and therapeutic uses (Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1993 and Booth, 2003).
First is that for cancer patients who are having their chemotherapy sessions, the incidence of hyper-emesis can be greatly reduced because of the presence of substances in marijuana which binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, thus, lessening the incidences of emesis or vomiting (US Institute of Medicine, 1999). Second is that cannabinoids and cannabis contains substances which alleviates nausea and stimulates the appetite. This can be of great help especially to those patients which are receiving HIV/AIDS treatment (US Institute of Medicine).
Cannabis is also proven to be effective in treating blindness due to glaucoma by decreasing the intra-ocular pressure, thus preventing the damage of optic nerves (Hepler and Petrus, 1971). Another significant effect of marijuana in medical use is that it helps prevent epilepsy from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis by reducing the likelihood of muscle spasms because of its relaxant effect (Glass, Dragunow and Faull, 1997).
More than that, marijuana is also known for its analgesic effects which are very effective in chronic pains especially to persons who have already developed a drug-tolerance to several analgesics (Noyes, et al, 1975). Similarly, it is also understood that as much as people wanted to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, it is being prohibited if not regulated because of its harmful effects on the part of the patient.
That the use of marijuana is still being carefully watched for and currently being controlled by the feral laws is also a consequent manifestation that there are also adverse effects derived from its usage. The World Health Organization has summarized the negative effects of Cannabis in the health of a person (World Health Organization). Included in the acute effects of marijuana are cognitive impairments which can lead to less efficient memory. Psychomotor performance is also affected with its use; however, the effects are less harmful compared to the effect of alcohol to the psychomotor area.
In terms of chronic effects, the most concerning is the cannabis dependence which may develop in a patient over time due to the alleviating effects of cannabis to his physique and psyche. In smoking cannabis, there are also risks for epithelial tissue injury in the airway and respiratory tract which may lead to respiratory illnesses. And lastly, the use of cannabis during pregnancy also has a teratogenic effect on the part of both the mother and the fetus and may lead to certain fetal abnormalities and maternal difficulties during gestation.
In closely analyzing these detrimental effects, however, we can see that these harmful effects may only be due to the marijuana abuse or use of marijuana for recreation purpose- not for medicinal purposes. One example is the effect of respiratory injuries brought about by smoking. Consequently, smoking would not be a part of medicinal use of marijuana unless otherwise, the patient does medicate himself without the proper supervision of a medical professional. In the case of fetal and maternal effects, its use may be contraindicated so as to prevent these things from happening.
In simple terms, the use of marijuana exclusively in the four corners of a medical institution or with the supervision of a medical professional, these detrimental effects may be barred from occurrence. The use of Cannabis has not been a big issue until the twentieth century and was actually accepted mainly as a plant of great therapeutic use most especially in the United States and other countries. It should always be remembered that although the use of cannabis have few detriments related to recreational use, the chance of survival and alleviation from suffering of patients should not be taken away.
Advocacies of making marijuana legal for medicinal purpose fight for the strong belief that the legal system should also be compassionate when the need arises them to be. Living always by the book is good but is not always a justifiable act. Simply, the legislature should also be considerate and make legitimate the use of cannabis to patients who are in need of it. If what they fear are the detrimental effects of cannabis like drug dependence, it is already their imperative to counteract it with bills serving the purpose of regulating it only for those in need.
It is however, greatly understood that the purpose of these laws is to prevent the abuse of system in case marijuana is legalized. However, if abuse happens, it should not just be blamed on the effect of cannabis itself but more than that, the implementation and structure of the system should also be questioned because the problem today is that the legal system is creating a greatly false image of Cannabis which is somehow contrary to its real image.
Legalizing marijuana for medical use is indeed a justifiable act. What makes it unjustifiable to the eyes of the people is that there is already a general public impression on the plant itself. It is undeniable that there may be negative effects such as dependence and difficulty to withdraw; but it always depends on the outlook of the person taking it, the support of the medical team and the efficiency of the implementation of laws regarding its permission for medicinal purposes exclusively.