The controversy that surrounds the legalization of marijuana as a medicine or for personal use continues to be a topic for debate at the state and federal levels within our country. Is marijuana really harmful and addictive? Does it help bring relief to those who are sick? What about compassion? It’s human nature to want to help others. There are so many questions people must have when they are asked to make medical decisions about the health and well-being of others. It doesn’t seem fair for the public to be burdened with decisions that should clearly be made by doctors and scientists. We hope this section will help you make informed decisions about marijuana.
Does marijuana have medicinal value?
- Yes. Research to date has found limited clinical value in one compound of its FDA approved form, not in its smoked or raw form.
- Smoking is an ineffective and illogical way to deliver medicine – dosage cannot be regulated, and tar and other harmful compounds are delivered directly to the lungs along with any helpful cannabinoids (compounds in marijuana).
- In fact, Dr. Robert DuPont, former director of NIDA, says, "There is no acceptable role in modern medicine for using burning leaves as a drug delivery system because smoke is inherently unhealthy."
- Other delivery methods aren't safer either; vaporizing does not filter cancer-causing tar or other chemicals, and eating delivers the same damaging compounds as well as the insecticides and fungi found in unmonitored crops.
- Clinical research is being conducted into a controlled, tested, safe delivery system (that can be prescribed and managed) of the helpful cannabinoids of marijuana without any of the harmful chemicals or dangerous side effects.
Don't doctors prescribe marijuana?
- No. Doctors cannot prescribe a non-FDA approved substance; in medical excuse marijuana states only, they can recommend it.
- The FDA issued a statement against the use of smoked marijuana in 2006, and the Institute of Medicine study from 1999 found that marijuana should be researched but not used as a medicine in its raw form.
- Doctors are not covered by insurance for recommending a non-FDA approved drug, and there is an undetermined impact on a patient’s right to sue for malpractice.
- Although many support cannabinoid research, most of the major medical associations in the US are against the use of smoked or raw marijuana.
Doesn't marijuana help with some diseases?
- Cancer and HIV/AIDS – The pill form of the active chemical in marijuana (dronabinol) can be helpful for the nausea associated with chemotherapy or the wasting disease that appears with AIDS, but many other medicines that have been tested as safe and more effective are preferred by oncologists. Smoked marijuana has been proven to damage the immune system, cause premalignant cellular changes in the lungs and impair lung function, leaving immune-suppressed patients more vulnerable to infection.
- Multiple sclerosis – Patients in various stages of the disease may perceive that their spasticity is partially relieved, but studies show that spasticity is made worse, not better.
- Chronic pain – Not in its raw form with accompanying undesirable side effects, but there are hopeful studies in animals that suggest a molecule similar to the cannabinoids in marijuana could be isolated and used in pain relief. The lead researcher cautions: "It is a big step to go from a successful animal model to treating humans in pain."
- Glaucoma – Smoked marijuana has never been shown to be better or even just as good as existing drugs for relieving eye pressure, and its use brings with it many more side effects than the approved medicines.
What are the risks of smoking marijuana?
- Physical – Respiratory damage, increased risk of lung cancer, increased heart rate, reproductive damage in both sexes and immunosuppression.
- Psychological – Paranoia, emotional disorders, increased risk of schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders, memory loss, increased tolerance to intoxication, addiction to marijuana and other drugs (especially with its increasing potency), loss of ability to concentrate and loss of inhibition.
- Legal – No matter what laws are passed locally or statewide, marijuana is illegal on the federal level - a ruling upheld by the Supreme Court and enforced by federal officials.
But how can a naturally grown herb be harmful?
- Arsenic and belladonna are naturally occurring also and quite lethal. Many medicines are derived from plants but are neither safe nor distributed in their raw form because of complications with dosage measurements and negative side effects.
- Tobacco is a plant that grows naturally and was once thought to be safe, even medicinal, but has caused a great deal of damage to our society.
- Alcohol is a natural result of the fermentation process, but we pay a heavy price for its legal abuse.
Since raw marijuana isn’t a medicine, why do some people want to "medicalize" it?
- Many who claim to need marijuana medicinally simply want to use it recreationally. In states with marijuana dispensaries, the vast majority of "patients" are young men between the ages of 18 and 25, not the cancer or AIDS victims used in voter ads to exploit our compassionate nature.
- The claim that smoked marijuana is medicinal is a tactic to legalize marijuana for any purpose and to eventually legalize other drugs for personal use.
- There is great potential to make a lot of money through the sale of marijuana. Tobacco companies, who made a killing on cigarettes to the detriment of so many, have already patented names for marijuana products.
But isn’t allowing marijuana for the treatment of health problems a compassionate thing to do?
- Not really. "Medicalizing" this harmful substance has caused truly ill people to refuse proper medical care, thinking that because marijuana makes them feel better they are getting better. Medical practitioners and others who are truly concerned for the sick have higher standards and greater compassion – we want the ill to receive the medicine they need.
- The medical excuse marijuana movement has become a device used by special interest groups to exploit the sick and dying and well-meaning voters for their own purposes.
- Rev. Scott Imler, Co-Founder of Prop 215 (California's medical marijuana law) said, "We created Prop 215 so that patients would not have to deal with black market profiteers. But today it is all about the money. Most of the dispensaries operating in California are little more than dope dealers with store fronts."