Among the debates that have raised heated discussions in numerous conferences globally and accompanied by an unusual amount of contradicting research is the ethical legalization of medical marijuana. This has led to numerous perspectives that argue from both the medical and recreational spectrums. Marijuana has immense medicinal value including alleviating suffering for patients with severe illnesses and has been used by many people for centuries for the same purpose. Medical practitioners agree that it can effectively be used in cancer, AIDS and in multiple sclerosis patients among others, therefore, supporting its legalization. However, opponents of the legalization of marijuana for medical use claim that it can potentially be abuse making them take a hard stance on the debate. Two decades Attorney General Janet Reno was of the contrary opinion and made an announcement that in all states, physicians prescribing Marijuana could lose the privilege of writing prescriptions, face exclusion from Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and a possible prosecution for committing a federal crime and the position has been upheld by some of the lawmakers to date. Despite the fierce opposition, medical marijuana is ethical should be legalized to save lives by assisting patients with numerous life-threatening conditions.
Medical marijuana has already been legalized in 33 states among them California and Arizona. This followed laws that needed a majority vote by the public and the favor of the Congress. For example, 80% of San Francisco residents and 75% of Santa Cruz agreed to the legalization back in 1991 (‘Common Sense for Drug Policy: Facts About Marijuana’, 2019). This was the begging of enactment of such laws with the growing and extensive proof of support for the legalization of marijuana for medical use. Public polls have been held and depict public support for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Gradually, such moves have evolved across all the states and constant changes regarding these changes are updated on the state organs all the time to help the residents and tourists to steer clear in case of any misunderstandings. The lessening of prosecution and consequent decriminalization is a step forward towards acceptance that indeed marijuana is essential in medical practice.
Another reason why medical marijuana is ethical and should be legalized is the fact that it has still been in use and the oldest drug known to man. The usage documentation dates back to 2700B.C as contained in a Chinese manuscript. A document attributed to “Shennung Ben Ts’ao King” an emperor who lived 2,800 BCE explains how the plant was consumed as herb almost in its entirety. Referring it to as “ma”, its flowers were a reliever of menstrual disorders and the pain of open wounds and the seeds were a prescription for postpartum difficulties, constipation, obstinate vomiting, aconite, and vermillion poisoning. The document also offers caution against “ma’s” excessive use citing hallucinations and also loss of balance that leads to a staggering gait. In 1839, Dr. W. B. O’Shaugnessy the respectable Royal Academy of Science member, was among the initial professionals to present positive facts regarding the medicinal use of marijuana. During this time, the drug was not well known for medical purposes, since its use for recreational purposes was also not properly renown, few people associated it with medical importance until his works unveiled the medical aspects of the plant to the world (Daniel & Schatman, 2019). Therefore, marijuana has been in use over the years and these facts should be referred to by the opponents to overcome the fear of potential abuse of the drug upon legalization.
Medical marijuana should be legalized because it composes THC as its active compound treating many symptoms of terminally ill patients. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC functions like the natural cannabinoid that the body naturally makes. Its function is activating the receptors associated with movements, pleasure, memory, thinking among other vital functions. While there is a synthetic THC that is manufactured and marketed as Marinol, it is costly and is associated with side effects such as anxiety and depression. This is difficult side effects to deal with especially in patients who are already dealing with existing illnesses. As such, the patients should be treated with drugs for treating their illnesses and not those that compound their suffering with their side effects. A convincing body of research indicates that once smoked, marijuana suppresses nausea meaning that it is better than the Marinol which is hugely used by medical practitioners (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017). If patients who are terminally ill have attempted different treatments unsuccessfully and smoking marijuana relieves their symptoms less expensively and with fewer side effects, then they should be permitted to explore the options of their choice.
Among the patients who will find a relief in medical marijuana are those of cancer patients since it effectively treats the effects of chemotherapy. In an article in Time, “Marijuana: Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire” a patient named Jo Daly describes what she experienced during chemotherapy experience as a “nuclear explosion” of nausea. She discusses how she would feel the toes and nails burning. After many attempts with different pain-relieving alternatives, she tried marijuana and was the only effective remedy in alleviating her pain. The different kinds of nausea experienced during chemotherapy include acute, delayed and anticipatory nausea and vomiting. They are characterized by dry heaves which amount to a reflexive act resulting after the contraction of the stomach muscles and esophageal movements during vomiting. Failure to control it in cancer patients can result in severe metabolic derangements that will lead to nutritional depletion and a deteriorated mental and physical status of the patients because the chemo drugs damage the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract (Blanco et al., 2017).To save them from this dire effects that seem to be relieved by marijuana, it should, therefore, be legalized for medical uses.
AIDS patient have also found reprieve after using marijuana treatment therapies as reported by the Canadian Medical Association Journal reports (Gonzalez, 2017). A case in point is of Jean Pariseau (30) the AIDS patient who perhaps would be dead is he stuck to his legally prescribed drugs. His system could not keep any food or medication which left him weighing only 80 pounds. Besides his deteriorating health, he was bedridden. After treatment with medical marijuana, his doctor reported of his remarkable improvement and could digest the medication and retain food in his system too. HIV had been suppressed due to the improvement in the immune function, he added weight and learned to walk again with the assistance of a cane. Evidently, this is a case illustrating how marijuana can alleviate, stunt and even repress HIV from developing and expanding together with many ailments around the globe.
Opponents of legalization of medical marijuana hold that it will lead to addiction emphasizing that it is listed under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 under schedule 1 drug depending on its high abuse potential. They add that those who consume it will slowly end up hooked and the drug eventually dominates their lives. While it is true that overuse of the drug may result in lethargic behaviors or even severe health problems, the amount of the marijuana prescribed by a licensed physician will have to be tested so that the chances of dependency are eliminated and will only be dispensed at licensed outlets where it is only accessible to only those with medical prescriptions. Such measures will ensure that patients do not develop dependency and that marijuana is not abused.
In sum, the legalization of medical marijuana in America for medical use will be an ethical mark of historic legislation that will have transformed the medical field for good. This is because of the immense benefits that are likely to be reaped by the users and the little effect on those who will choose to keep away from it. Alone, the relief that patients with chronic illnesses such as cancer, cramps, and HIV will experience is life-saving. If a single plant can alleviate suffering for the masses of suffering patients, then why not legalize it for medical use! The fact that their human health is invaluable is enough to make opponents reconsider their stand and advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana.
- Common Sense for Drug Policy: Facts About Marijuana. (2019). Retrieved from http://www.csdp.org/news/news/marijuan.htm
- Carr, D. daniel. carr@tufts. ed., & Schatman, M. (2019). Cannabis for Chronic Pain: Not Ready for Prime Time. American Journal of Public Health, 109(1), 50–51. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304593-carnabinoids
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (U.S.). (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research.
- Compton, W. M., Han, B., Hughes, A., Jones, C. M., & Blanco, C. (2017). Use of Marijuana for Medical Purposes Among Adults in the United States. JAMA, 317(2), 209–211. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2016.18900
- Vidot, D. C., Lerner, B., & Gonzalez, R. (2017). Cannabis Use, Medication Management and Adherence Among Persons Living with HIV. AIDS And Behavior, 21(7), 2005–2013. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-017-1782-x