Medical Marijuana Essay
Marijuana prohibition applies to everyone, including the sick and dying. Of all the negative consequences of prohibition, none is as tragic as the denial of medical marijuana to the tens of thousands of seriously ill patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
It is clear from available studies and rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that marijuana is therapeutic in the treatment of a number of serious ailments and is less toxic and costly than many conventional medicines for which it may be substituted.1 Most recently, a federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) determined that, Marijuanas active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting, and other symptoms including multiple sclerosis.2 In some cases, marijuana appears more effective than the commercially available drugs it replaces.
The best established medical use of smoked marijuana is as an anti-nauseant for cancer chemotherapy. During the 1980s, researchers in six different state-sponsored clinical studies involving nearly 1,000 patients determined smoked marijuana to be an effective anti-emetic.4 For many of these patients, smoked marijuana proved more effective than both conventional prescription anti-nauseants and oral THC (marketed today as the synthetic pill, Marinol).5 Dr. John Benson, Jr., co-principle investigator for the latest NAS report, concluded in March 1997 that short term marijuana use appears to be suitable in treating conditions like chemotherapy-induced nausea for patients who do not respond well to other medications.
6 Currently, many oncologists are recommending marijuana to their patients despite its prohibition.7
Scientific and anecdotal evidence also suggests that marijuana is a valuable aid in reducing pain and suffering for patients with a variety of other serious ailments. For example, marijuana alleviates the nausea, vomiting, and the loss of appetite experienced by many AIDS patients without accelerating the rate at which HIV positive individuals develop clinical AIDS or other illnesses.8 According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), marijuana increases food enjoyment and the number of times individuals eat per day.9 The most recent NAS report found cannabinoid drugs promising for treating wasting syndrome in AIDS patients,10 and recommended those patients unresponsive to conventional AIDS medications smoke marijuana to combat the wasting syndrome.11
An earlier 1982 report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) suggested that marijuana reduces intraocular pressure (IOP) in patients suffering from glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
12 A follow up 1994 report by the Australian federal government determined that, There is reasonable evidence for the potential efficacy of THC in the treatment of glaucoma, especially in cases which have proved resistant to existing anti-glaucoma agents, and recommended the drugs use under medically supervised conditions.13
Clinical and anecdotal evidence also points to the effectiveness of marijuana as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of a variety of spastic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, paraplegia, epilepsy, and quadriplegia. Animal studies and carefully controlled human studies support marijuana’s ability to suppress convulsions. In November 1998, Englands House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said they were convinced …
that cannabis … certainly does have genuine medical applications …
in treating the painful muscle spasms and other symptoms of MS, and recommended legalizing medical use of the drug.14 The latest NAS report also noted marijuana seems to alleviate muscle spasms associated with MS.15
Many patients and older Americans use marijuana therapeutically to control chronic pain. NAS researchers found that, The available evidence from both animal and human studies indicates that cannabinoids can produce a significant analgesic effect.16 Several recent scientific studies performed by researchers at the University of San Francisco and elsewhere demonstrate that compounds in marijuana modulate pain signals in much the same way as morphine and other opiates.17 This new research led the Society of Neuroscience to pronounce that, Substances similar to or derived from marijuana, known as cannabinoids, could benefit the more than 97 million Americans who experience some form of pain each year.
New research indicates that marijuana constituents appear to protect brain cells during a stroke. Researchers at the National Institute for Mental Health called compounds in marijuana potent antioxidants.19 Doctors rely on antioxidants to protect stroke victims from toxic levels of a brain chemical called glutamate. Head trauma and strokes cause the release of .