The emergence of scientific evidence on the effects of the main chemical components in marijuana has initiated a metamorphosis of the perception of marijuana as a drug that warrants legalization due to its medical and socioeconomic benefits.
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The supporters and opponents of the legalization of marijuana have opted to focus on either the positive or the negative aspects of the effects of the drug to support their views on policies to legalize or criminalize the drug. The US Congress passed laws that placed marijuana in the Schedule 1 of the controlled substances in 1972.
A significant number of states in the US, 21 out of 50, have adopted laws to legalize the medical use of marijuana. The essay analyzes the rationale for the support of the legalization of marijuana for medical use and the rationale for the counter argument.
The ability of marijuana components to alleviate symptoms associated with medical conditions such as cancer, AIDS, pain, epilepsy and glaucoma has prompted increased support for laws that allow the use of medical marijuana.
Reports and studies from renowned medical personnel and organizations highlight the significance of harnessing marijuana’s main components, THC and CBD, to treat various medical conditions. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) helps to relieve pain by mimicking compounds such as dopamine and anandamide, which occur naturally in the human brain.
Clinical trials have shown the effectiveness of THC in the treatment of spasticity due to sclerosis and spinal cord injury (Brashear & Elovic, 2011). The compound has had satisfactory levels of success in reducing pain, tremor and ataxia in patients (Columbus, 2005).
THC helps in the treatment of glaucoma by reducing intraocular pressure by about 30 percent (ElSohly, 2007). Cannabidiol (CBD) relieves convulsions in epileptic patients, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and reduces nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy (Russo, 2001).
CBD inhibits the growth of cancerous cells by coordinating cross talk between apoptosis and autophagy (Shrivastava et al., 2011). Marijuana is useful in treating psychiatric problem such as schizophrenia due to the antipsychotic effects of CBD.
Opponents of the legalization of medical marijuana argue that the availability of FDA-approved drugs that can serve the supposed medical purposes of marijuana eliminates the need to legalize the drug. The existence of conflicting evidence on the medical benefits of marijuana in the long-term necessitates the continued prohibition of the drug.
For example, the treatment of nausea and vomiting requires the administration of high THC dosage, which increases the likelihood of addiction (Haerens, 2013). Studies show that mainstream drugs such as metoclopramide have higher efficiency in treating nausea and vomiting compared to marijuana. The use of marijuana in treating epilepsy can induce convulsions in patients (Kanner & Schachter, 2008).
Opponents of medical marijuana cite the numerous peer-reviewed reports, which indicate that marijuana has psychoactive components that impair normal human abilities such as driving and interferes with the functioning of the immune system, respiratory system and neural system (Iversen, 2000).
THC effects such as euphoria and altered space-time perception can have counter effects on the use of the drug in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia (Joy et al., 1999).
The psychotic effects of THC can worsen the psychiatric symptoms of patients using medical marijuana. The use of drugs such as amisulpride has minimal side effects on the treatment of psychiatric problems compared to marijuana (Lambert, 2009).
Brashear, A., & Elovic, E. (2011). Spasticity diagnosis and management. New York: Demos Medical Pub..
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Columbus, F. H. (2005). Treatment and management of multiple sclerosis. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
ElSohly, M. A. (2007). Marijuana and the cannabinoids. Totowa, N.J.: Humana Press.
Haerens, M. (2013). Medical marijuana. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
Iversen, L. L. (2000). The science of marijuana. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Joy, J. E., Watson, S. J., & Benson, J. A. (1999). Marijuana and medicine assessing the science base. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Kanner, A. M., & Schachter, S. C. (2008). Psychiatric controversies in epilepsy. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Lambert, D. M. (2009). Cannabinoids in nature and medicine. Zürich: Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta ;.
Russo, E. (2001). Cannabis therapeutics in HIV/AIDS. New York: Haworth Integrative Healing Press.
Shrivastava, A., Kuzontkoski, P. M., Groopman, J. E., & Prasad, A. (2011). Cannabidiol Induces Programmed Cell Death in Breast Cancer Cells by Coordinating the Cross-talk between Apoptosis and Autophagy. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 10(7), 1161-1172.