Marijuana is medicine. It has been used for thousands of years to treat a
wide variety of ailments. Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) was legal in the
United States for all purposes – industrial and recreational, as well as
medicinal until 1937.
Today, only eight Americans are legally allowed to use marijuana as medicine.
NORML is working to restore marijuana’s availability as medicine. Medicinal
Value Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically
active substances known. No one has ever died from an overdose. It is also
Four of its general therapeutic applications include: relief from nausea and
increase of appetite; reduction of intraocular (“within the eye”) pressure;
reduction of muscle spasms; relief from mild to moderate chronic pain.
Marijuana is often useful in the treatment of the following conditions:
Cancer: Marijuana alleviates the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused
by chemotherapy treatment.
AIDS: Marijuana alleviates the nausea, vomiting,
and loss of appetite caused by the disease itself and by treatment with AZT and
Glaucoma: Marijuana, by reducing intraocular pressure, alleviates the pain and
slows or halts the progress of the disease. Glaucoma, which damages vision by
gradually increasing eye pressure over time, is the leading cause of blindness
in the United States.
Multiple Sclerosis: Marijuana reduces the muscle pain and spasticity caused by
the disease. It may also relieve tremor and unsteadiness of gait, and it helps
some patients with bladder control. Multiple sclerosis is the leading cause of
neurological disability among young and middle-aged adults in the United States.
Epilepsy: Marijuana prevents epileptic seizures in some patients.
Chronic Pain: Marijuana reduces the chronic, often debilitating pain caused by
a variety of injuries and disorders.
Each of these uses has been recognized as legitimate at least once by various
courts, legislatures, government, or scientific agencies throughout the United
States. Currently, such well respected organizations as the National Academy of
Sciences (1982), the California Medical Association (1993), the Federation of
American Scientists (1994), the Australian Commonwealth Department of Human
Services and Health (1994), the American Public Health Association (1995), the
San Francisco Medical Society (1996), the California Academy of Family
Physicians (1996), as well as several state nursing associations have supported
the use of marijuana as a medicine.
In addition, anecdotal evidence exists that marijuana is effective in the
treatment of arthritis, migraine headaches, pruritis, menstrual cramps, alcohol
and opiate addiction, and depression and other mood disorders. Marijuana could
benefit as many as five million patients in the United States.
However, except for the eight individuals given special permission by the
federal government, marijuana remains illegal-even as medicine! Individuals
currently suffering from any of the aforementioned ailments, for whom the
standard legal medical alternatives have not been safe or effective, are left
with two choices: Continue to suffer from the effects of the disease; or Obtain
marijuana illegally and risk the potential consequences, which may include: an
insufficient supply because of the prohibition-inflated price or unavailability;
impure, contaminated, or chemically adulterated marijuana; arrests, fines, court
costs, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation, and criminal records.
The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 established the federal prohibition of marijuana.
Dr. William C. Woodward of the American Medical Association testified against
the Act, arguing that it would ultimately prevent any medicinal use of marijuana.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established five categories, or
“schedules,” into which all illicit and prescription drugs were placed.
Marijuana was placed in Schedule I, which defines the substance as having a high
potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the
United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.
This definition is simply not accurate. However, at the time of the Controlled
Substances Act, marijuana had been illegal for more than 30 years. Its
medicinal uses had been forgotten and its “reefer madness” stigma was still
Marijuana’s medicinal uses were rediscovered as a result of the tremendous
increase in the number of recreational users in the 1970s: Marijuana’s
popularity compelled many scientists to study its health effects. They
subsequently discovered marijuana’s remarkable history as a medicine, inspiring
many studies of its therapeutic potential; Many recreational users who also
happened to be afflicted with conditions for which marijuana has therapeutic
potential inadvertently discovered its medicinal benefits.
As the news spread, the number of patients illegally using marijuana
medicinally began to increase. Because marijuana is a Schedule I substance,
however, doctors were not allowed to prescribe it, and research approval and
funding were severely restricted.
The Struggle In Court:
In 1972, NORML initiated efforts to .