Legalization of Medical Marijuana: Pros and Cons

Introduction

At the beginning of the 21st century, legalization of marijuana is one of the topical questions discussed in media and political circles. The main controversy with legalization of marijuana is that it is not difficult to justify laws against intoxication, at least intoxication in public, but it is extremely difficult to control consumption and risky behavior caused by drug abuse. Legalized marijuana will help the government and police to control consumption, price level and collect taxes, but it will not solve the problem of drug abuse and black market operations.

Discussion Section

Two thousand years before Christ, perhaps even five thousand years before, people in India and Asia were burning the leaves of a common plant as incense and inhaling the fumes. Sometimes, they rolled the leaves into tubes, which they smoked, or they steeped it in hot water to make tea, or mixed it into honey cakes. No matter whether they inhaled the smoke or drank the tea or ate the cakes, the euphoric, sedative effect was the same. Today, marijuana is used by millions of people because many still consider it a “safe drug” that should be legalized just as alcohol is. Critics and doctors know that in the late 1800s, extracts of hemp were accepted medicines in the United States, and not only did doctors routinely use them to treat pain, and disorders such as asthma but also local drugstores had plenty of them on their shelves. “The Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse points out that hemp was a major crop in America between the Colonial and Civil War periods and that George Washington himself grew it at Mount Vernon, presumably for its fiber” (Belio 43), although some say also for its value as a medicine and as an intoxicant. Some researchers believe that marijuana has a place in medicine, and, in fact, the active ingredient in the plant has been used to quiet the nausea that often comes when cancer medicines are administered, and in other disorders. The benefits of marijuana are that it stimulates the appetite and reduces sufferings during nausea and vomiting (side effects of chemotherapy treatment). This drug can reduce muscle pain and spasticity (Belio 27).

Marijuana is a drug widely used for medical purposes in America. In spite of this fact, marijuana is prohibited on the state level which creates problems for medical staff and patients. Marijuana is a drug which should be prohibited but its legal status will help doctors to avoid criminal responsibility. Legal status of medical marijuana will benefit patients and help them to relief pain and sufferings. Legal status of medical marijuana will benefit the government and allows officials to collect taxes, control black market and illegal operations. Crop production uncertainties are just one perturbing factor in gauging the amount of illegal drugs being produced. Medical marijuana will create certain problem for society and the state. “The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that drugs may not be advertised and sold in the absence of “evidence consisting of adequate and well-controlled investigations” (Cohen 10). The main problem is that marijuana policy does not only affect marijuana users, but also the rest of society. Criminalizing marijuana use on the one hand can lead to higher costs of law enforcement and a black market, while decriminalizing could lead to public disturbance caused by unwanted marijuana use in public. Similar to alcohol and other illicit drugs, prohibition does not work and does young from its usage. It is possible to oppose these arguments stating that legal status of marijuana will worsen the problem of drug addition and give free access of wide target audience to marijuana (Nadelmann 43).

Marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes only because it allows patients to relief some types of pain including sclerosis, cancer and AIDS. In the 1950s recommended uses for marijuana included the treatment of gout, rheumatism, tetanus, opiate withdrawal symptoms, alcohol withdrawal, loss of appetite, convulsions, depression, delirium tremens, insanity, and asthma. Legal status of marijuana will help patients to avoid other narcotics and relief pain. “Medical marijuana” should be subjected to the same scientific scrutiny as any drug proposed for use in medical therapy, rather than made legal for medical use by popular will” (Cohen 19). Marijuana is a hallucinogen, and when it gets into the system, it has different effects depending, as in the case of alcohol, on how strong it is, how much is used, in what form, and under what circumstances. Users fairly quickly get a feeling of well-being, are happy with the people around them, and are very relaxed. Some may go into a trancelike state, or have their sense of time and space warped. Some users claim pot makes them see and feel things more sharply and understand people better. Others report that it dulls their senses and makes them forget things that happened a short time before. Many people do think that marijuana is a safe drug and that it should be legalized. Those who feel that way say that marijuana is usually smoked for recreation, not because people are hooked on it, and that arresting or jailing someone for smoking or merely possessing pot does far more psychological damage to him or her than the drug does. Marijuana is an effective drug as it can prevent epileptic seizures in some patients. Marijuana can alleviate the chronic, often debilitating pain caused by different disorders and injuries. Also, it reduces “within the eye” pressure (Medical Marijuana. 2007).

Legal status of medical marijuana will benefit the government and allows state officials to collect taxes, control black market and illegal operations. Crop production uncertainties are just one perturbing factor in gauging the amount of illegal drugs being produced. The alkaloid content of any given precursor plant is not a given; it varies according to cultivation practices, climatic conditions and microzones, plant subspecies, and harvesting practices. One must make estimates about that content. In the case of coca leaves, the cocaine content is known to vary widely, from about 0.25 percent to 1.5 percent, thereby throwing a large “wild card” into estimates of actual cocaine derived from the estimated crop production, itself subject to numerous assumptions. Moreover, the leaves, whatever their recoverable alkaloid content at the time of picking, quickly (within a matter of days) lose much of their potency. Nadelmann states: “My strongest argument for legalization, though, is a moral one.” (46). Any delay in processing the leaves (which might arise, for example, if a successful trafficker interdiction program happens to be underway) can therefore add additional uncertainties to the production figures. One of the ways in which cannabis policy has an effect on non-users is through tax money. For various countries, estimates are made on the basis of total law enforcement costs and the share of enforcing cannabis laws in the total. In contrast, illegal status of medical marijuana becomes a heavy burden for police including high costs and workload (Kreit 1787).

On the opposite end of the argument are those who feel that marijuana use is not only an evil, but actually causes criminal behavior, sexual perversity, and insanity, and leads inevitably to narcotic addiction. Some critics suppose that marijuana, as one of the most popular illicit drug, should be strictly prohibited but allowed for medical purposes only. While marijuana is not physically addicting, that doesn’t mean it has no effect on a body. There are physical as well as mental effects if a person smokes ors eat anything with tetrahydrocannabinol in it, although the effects are more noticeable when it is smoked. Pot smokers get bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and throat, and an increased heartbeat. They may get hungry, usually for sweets, because marijuana heightens sensation, particularly taste. “Medical marijuana proponents who think “the federal government should stay out of the way” (30) should look to state and local distribution schemes as their best opportunity to place their conduct outside federal reach” (Kreit 1787). As occurs with alcohol use, hands and feet don’t always do what the owner wants them to do which is one reason why driving a car or operating machinery after smoking pot is as dangerous as doing those things after drinking alcohol. Some experts say that the ability to drive after smoking pot can be impaired for up to ten hours, far longer than with alcohol. There is another serious physiological effect. Because joints are not filtered, and because smokers take long drags on them and then hold the smoke in their lungs as long as possible, the effects on the lungs can be worse than from ordinary cigarettes. In fact, marijuana smoke is said to contain more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke. Having said all that, is marijuana a safe drug? One way to answer that is to say that no drug is really ever safe, especially if it can be abused. Most drugs have a common purpose: the cure, prevention, and treatment of disease. To do that they have to be strong enough to affect either the structure, and function of our bodies, or that of germs and viruses. Drugs are awesome substances -whether they are used in medicine or just for fun (Medical Marijuana. 2007).

Making medical marijuana use and trade illegal gives way to a black market. It has been suggested that this black market will lead to more associated crime such as physical violence (i.e. violence caused by illegal trade, not by use of the drug it self). While this is the case for the cocaine and heroin market, the cannabis market is not associated with violence. It is possible to reject these arguments stating that medical marijuana will create certain problem for society and the state. The main problem is that marijuana policy does not only affect marijuana users, but also the rest of society. Criminalizing marijuana use on the one hand can lead to higher costs of law enforcement and a black market, while decriminalizing could lead to public disturbance caused by unwanted marijuana use in public. “Based on the addictiveness, that is the reinforcing difference between the means of administration, crack cocaine is probably twice as addictive as powdered cocaine” (“The War on Drugs” 1537). Within the scope of the current research, we do not study all consequences of marijuana policy for society as a whole. Societal costs due to the use of marijuana itself, such as health care costs or traffic accidents, are outside the scope of the research.

Conclusion

Somewhere in between both views of medical marijuana is the one that agrees that marijuana is a mild drug that is not as dangerous as the hard drugs, but that its regular use is risky, especially by a person who may be vulnerable to addiction for some of the emotional and environmental reasons we’ve mentioned. Such a person might well “graduate” to harder drugs after using marijuana repeatedly. In fact, it’s pretty well known that pot was the first drug that virtually all hard-drug abusers ever tried. When the increased potency is added to the hundreds of other hazardous chemicals in marijuana, there seems to be little doubt that regular marijuana use is a health hazard, if not an escalator drug that forces the user to look for bigger and better blasts.

Works Cited

Belio, J. The Benefits of Marijuana: Physical, Psychological & Spiritual. Lifeservices Press; 3nd Rev. edition, 2007.

Cohen, P. J. Medical Marijuana, Compassionate Use, and Public Policy: Expert Opinion or Vox Populi? The Hastings Center Report, 36 (1), 2006: 19.

Drug Policy Research Center, 2002. Web.

Kreit, A. The Future of Medical Marijuana: Should the States Grow Their Own? University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 151 (1), 2003: 1787.

Medical Marijuana. 2007. Web.

Nadelmann, E, “Should Some Illegal Drugs Be Legalized?” Issues in Science and Technology. 6, 1990: 43-46. Web.

The War on Drugs: Fighting Crime or Wasting Time? American Criminal Law Review, 2001, 38, p. 1537.

Appendix

Timeline