The Legalization of Medical Marijuana
Should medical marijuana be legalized? The controversy surrounding the use of marijuana leaves many unsure. However, is this stigma justified? After researching the issue and considering the pros and cons of the legalization of medical marijuana, I am inclined to believe that the bad reputation it has gained is needless and that the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Therefore, it should be legalized and treated as an acceptable form of treatment for those it would be of assistance to.
Medical marijuana can be defined as the use of cannabis to treat a condition or the symptoms of a disease. Due to marijuana’s use as a recreational drug, some parts of society have begun to see it as inherently harmful, but there is reason to believe that not only is it not harmful, it can also even be beneficial. Marijuana has been used for medical purposes for thousands of years. In fact, the oldest known record of the use of cannabis for its medicinal benefits was in 2727 B.C. when Chinese Emperor Shen Nung noted that marijuana being used to treat ailments had become very popular in Chinese society. Clearly the use of cannabis is nothing new and has been used for many generations.
Those against the legalization of medical marijuana may argue that medical marijuana may serve as a sort of gateway into doing harder drugs or that consumers of medical marijuana may become addicted. As Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana states on its website, “Marijuana is a dangerous, psychoactive, addictive drug that impacts the brain.” In response to this, I would like to point out that it has been proven that although marijuana addiction is possible, it is rare. Studies have shown that only nine percent of adults who use marijuana will develop an addiction. Considering all the known benefits of medical marijuana, I believe that the aid it can provide those with ailments outweighs the slight risk of addiction. One should also note that although some sources may say otherwise, marijuana is often only a gateway drug because it requires you to attain it from an illegal source, often causing one to also be around hard, addictive drugs. If it were made legal and became available in a safe environment, it would no longer require one to associate themselves with those who do harder drugs, resulting in the consumer not being exposed to them in the first place and not moving on to other substances. Clearly these two arguments against medical marijuana do not hold up to scrutiny.
To support my opinion that medical marijuana should be legalized, I would like to point out that many peer-reviewed studies have proven that medical marijuana is an effective treatment for health conditions. These conditions include multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and more. On top of treating physical ailments, it has also been shown to help treat mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome. One psychiatry professor at Harvard University, Lester Grinspoon states, “Contrary to what we’ve all been mistaught, marijuana is not a very harmful drug… It’s a drug remarkably free of toxicity providing it’s used intelligently.” Marijuana’s health benefits are possible due to a chemical compound called a cannabinoid, which gives marijuana its therapeutic effect. Cannabinoids provide relief to many symptoms by imitating endocannabinoids, a chemical the body produces naturally. Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids have been shown by some studies to neutralize free radicals (which can be responsible for cancer, impaired healing, and aging), help decrease chronic pain, lower stress, and promote an energy balance within the body. The endocannabinoid system works as a receptor to these chemicals and is present in many places in the body. By using medical marijuana to provide the body with endocannabinoids, the healing effects of the endocannabinoid system is multiplied. With these benefits already known, it is clear that marijuana can be useful in many ways, and is not simply just a way for one to get high.
Another reason medical marijuana should be legalized is because its legalization would mean that the government could ensure that the patients are receiving safe, regulated marijuana in a controlled environment, rather than being forced to seek it out in unsafe and illegal ways. The use of drugs such as marijuana is often associated with crime, and those that may benefit from it are often forced to go to drug dealers to receive it rather than a pharmacy. This may result in the patient being exposed to other drugs and other types of crime. We as a country should not drive those that may benefit from medical marijuana to the streets to attain what they need. Doing so is much more harmful to the individual than any negative side effect the marijuana itself could have. The American Health Association also supports the idea that the legalization of marijuana has not lead to more drug use by saying, “Jurisdictions that have legalized medical marijuana, decriminalized possession of marijuana and/or other drugs, or tolerated limited, retail sales… have not experienced significant, if any, increases in marijuana or other drug use.”
The final reason I support the legalization of medical marijuana is because the choice should ultimately be up to the individual and their physician. The government should not control how we treat our illnesses, as long as the method used is safe, and medical marijuana has shown to be at least as safe as the drugs sold at the pharmacy. With minimal side effects and risks, there is no reason a trained physician should not be allowed to prescribe such a beneficial treatment. One neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, even states, “It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works… It is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana. We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
To conclude, the controversy surrounding the use of medical marijuana is not because it is truly harmful, but because it is needlessly associated with crime and reckless behavior, which is a perception that does not hold up to reality. Marijuana, when regulated, is not a gateway drug and is rarely addictive. After researching all the ways it can benefit one’s health, there is no reason not to legalize it and allow those who may find it to be helpful to use it. As Stephen Jay Gould, a scientist, once said, “It is beyond my comprehension that any humane person would withhold such a beneficial substance from people in such great need simply because others use it for different purposes.” Perhaps one day society will open their minds to the idea, and rather than judging it before understanding it, they will educate themselves and reap the many proven benefits of the use of medical marijuana.