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Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Purposes Currently, drugs remain high on the lists of concerns of Americans and are considered one of the major problems facing our country today. We see stories on the news about people being killed on the street everyday over drugs. What about the people who need marijuana to help them perhaps live longer and healthier? I believe that the federal government should legalize marijuana for medical purposes. There are millions of people nationwide who suffer with AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis and are already using marijuana to treat their symptoms. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Patients can be arrested and sent to prison for using marijuana-even those who have their doctors consent and approval (Marijuana Policy Project, November 1999).
For possessing one joint, the federal penalty is up to one year in prison (MPP, November 1999). Recreational use of marijuana became associated primarily with Mexican-American immigrant workers and the African-American jazz musician community decades ago (Stroup, 1999). The potential problems of marijuana were brought to public eye by Harry J. An slinger, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930 (Stroup, 1999). These problems brought about the Marijuana Tax of 1937. The law was signed by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt to help reduce the use of marijuana. It also made the use and sale a federal offense (Stroup, 1999). Since then many people have been fighting for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML], In March 1999, Gallup Pole News Service reported that 73 % of the respondents said they would vote for making marijuana legally available for a doctor to prescribe (Armentano, 1999). Most recently, a federally commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences [NAS] determined that, marijuana s active components are potentially effective in treating pain, nausea, the anorexia of AIDS wasting, and other symptoms (Armentano, 1999). As found on the CNN website, Weed Wars, there are other medical benefits of marijuana for cancer patients and many others.
For cancer victims, marijuana s active ingredient, THC, reduces vomiting and nausea caused by the chemotherapy and alleviates pre-treatment anxiety. Marijuana also improves the appetite and forestalls the loss of lean muscle mass in AIDS-related wasting patients. People who suffer from multiple sclerosis can smoke marijuana to reduce the muscle pain and spasticity caused by the disease. It may also help some patients with bladder control and relieve tremors.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is caused by increased pressure inside the eyeball. Marijuana, when smoked, reduces the pressure within the eye. For people with epilepsy, marijuana may prevent seizures (CNN, 1997).
The New England Journal of Medicine is in favor of doctors being allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. The journal s editor, Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, said that marijuana is safer than drugs used legally for some of the same conditions, such as morphine. If it relieves suffering, even from one patient, why not allow physicians to prescribe it? (Holtz, January 30, 1997).
Several people throughout the nation believe that if we legalized marijuana for medical purposes only, it would lead to an increase of marijuana use in the general population. However, the Institute of Medicine s 1999 report on medical marijuana stated, At this point there is no convincing data to support this concern. The existing data are consistent with the idea that this would not be a problem if the medical use of marijuana were as closely regulated as other medications with abuse potential. This question is beyond the issues normally considered for medical uses of drugs, and should not be a factor in evaluating the therapeutic potential of marijuana (Joy, Watson 038; Benson, 1999). In spite of the established medical value of marijuana, doctors are presently permitted to prescribe cocaine and morphine but not marijuana. Many other organizations that have endorsed the medical access to marijuana and have publicly supported the legalization of marijuana.
The notable organizations include the American Academy of Family Physicians; American Bar Association; The American Cancer Society; Federation of American Scientists; American Public Health Association; National Association of Attorneys General; Consumer Reports Magazine; Boston Globe; Chicago Tribune; New York Times; and USA Today (Wright 038; Lewin November 1999). A statement urging the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services to modify its guidelines against using marijuana for medical uses was signed by actors Susan Sarandon, Richard Pryor, Woody Harrelson, comedian Bill Maher, author Tim Robbins, and musicians Hootie 038; The Blowfish. Other signatories included scientist Stephen Jay Gould, Ph.
D. and former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders (MPP, December 3, 1999). A similar statement was also signed by 35 members of Congress. The Society of Neurosciences also pronounced that, substances similar to or derived from marijuana, could benefit the more than 97 million Americans who experience some form of pain each year (Armentano, 1999). Public persuasion by many have helped thirteen states to have laws on the books to permit medical marijuana distribution through research programs.
The thirteen states include the following: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia. However, none of these state laws, which were passed in the late 1970 s and early 1980 s, are currently in operation, simply because the difficulty of obtaining marijuana from the federal government (MPP, December 17, 1999). Due to the complications of getting access to the government s marijuana, only seven state public health departments ever managed to get their programs up and running (MPP, December 3, 1999). The Vice President, Al Gore, told reporters on December 14, 1999 that his sister received medical marijuana through the Tennessee program while she was undergoing cancer chemotherapy in 1984. It came in a prescription container with a label on it, he said, adding that, it has not been unknown for some patients undergoing chemotherapy to be prescribed, in the past, marijuana as a means of dealing with the side effects of chemotherapy (MPP, December 17, 1999). Since his sister received the marijuana treatment, the Tennessee law was repealed in 1992.
Currently, only eight patients in the United States receive legal medical marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], as part of a defunct federal program. This organization holds a monopoly on legally available research marijuana, but has refused to dispense it for medical research (Drug Reform Coordination Network, 1999). The laws concerning the medical uses of marijuana should become nationwide. Marijuana can help patients suffering from AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other pain. There are many nationally acclaimed organizations that support the medical legalization of marijuana such as the American Cancer Society and American Bar Association. Also, there are only a total of thirteen states with laws on the books concerning medical marijuana distribution.
All states should adopt regulations concerning the distribution of the drug to sick and dying patients. Some examples would be to let physicians possess and prescribe marijuana for suffering patients and perhaps even for states to allow patients to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medicinal uses providing a physician approves it. I believe that the federal government should legalize marijuana for medical purposes only. Many seriously ill patients find marijuana the most effective way to relieve their pain and suffering and federal marijuana prohibition must not, in good conscience, continue to deny them that medication and right to live.
References Armentano, P. (1999, November). NORML statement on the medical use of marijuana supports amending federal law. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML]. Retrieved April 11, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web CNN Interactive Official Website. (1997, February).
Possible medical benefits of marijuana. Retrieved March 31, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Drug Reform Coordination Network. (1999). Medicinal marijuana. Retrieved March 31, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Holtz, A. (1997, January 30). Prestigious journal endorses medical uses of pot. CNN Interactive.
Retrieved April 11, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Joy, J. E. , Watson, S. J. , 038; Benson, J. (1999). Marijuana and medicine: Assessing the science base.
Washington, D. C. : National Academy Press. Marijuana Policy Project Official Website. (1999, November). Medicinal marijuana facts. Retrieved April 2, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Marijuana Policy Project Official Website. (1999, December 3).
Sarandon, Pryor, Harrelson, 038; other stars urge Clinton administration to allow medical use of marijuana. Retrieved April 2, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Marijuana Policy Project Official Website. (1999, December 17). Thirteen existing state laws permit medical marijuana distribution like the Tennessee law that served Al Gore s sister. Retrieved April 2, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Stroup, R. K. (1999, July).
Testimony before the sub-committee on criminal justice, drug policy and human resources committee on government reform. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws [NORML]. Retrieved April 3, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web Wright, K. , Lewin, P. (1999, November). Drug war facts. Common Sense for Drug Policy.
Retrieved April 5, 2000 from the World Wide Web: web 368
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