Recently, there has been heated debate in America and indeed worldwide as to whether the use of marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes. There are a number of countries that have decriminalized the use of marijuana such as Holland, Spain and most recently Germany. The reason put forth by these countries for the decriminalization of marijuana is mainly for medicinal purposes. The debate about marijuana is often a complex one mainly because most people when discussing the topic wouldalready have a stand and will not want to listen to the opposing side. Seeing as the number of users and sellers of this drug are increasing at an alarming rate, is it time for countries to start considering decriminalization of marijuana for the sole purposeof medical use.
There are several reasons being floated by the supporters who want marijuana to be legalized apart from the medical reasons. This paper however will dwell predominantly on whether to allow marijuana use for medical purposes. Doctors have been for a long time now administering small doses of marijuana to terminally ill patients even though most countries still have a ban on the use of marijuana whether for medical purposes or not. There have been some scientific studies that have been advanced to support the medical use of marijuana. The drug has been found to reduce the symptoms of some diseases in patients such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and even in some terminal diseases like cancer (Mehmedic, 1215). Tests that have been carried out by scientists show that marijuana has a mild-to-moderate pain killing effects that can be useful for medical purposes. It has a component called THC (tetahydrocannabinol) which acts on specific brain cells which is the component that works to relieve pain. THC is effective altering the neurotransmitter in the spinal cord which then gives the pain relieving effect on the body. This is what those who are arguing for the use of marijuana on medical grounds are looking to achieve, to tap into the pain relieving effect of the plant to help millions of patients worldwide to cope with pain.There have been some scientific studies that have been advanced to support the medical use of marijuana. The drug has been found to reduce the symptoms of some diseases in patients such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and even in some terminal diseases like cancer (Mehmedic, 1215). According to this research, it has been found that marijuana can not only help these patients to relieve their pain but also help in reducing the symptoms of the diseases. In cancer, for example, the research has found that using marijuana can help to reduce nausea and vomiting during the process of chemotherapy. Tied alongside the medicinal use of marijuana is its use for its psychoactive effects which is all about changing of moods and even bringing about relaxation. Doctors in most American states have been known to give small or adequate prescriptions of the drug to help in relaxation of the body and the mind of their patients.
Another reason put forth by those agitating for the use of marijuana is the fact that scientific research has shown that marijuana can be used as an appetite stimulant. As most patients eat little due to poor appetite, some medical practitioners feel that giving small and controlled amounts of marijuana would help to improve the patient’s appetite leading to speedy recovery. When marijuana is introduced into a patient’s body, blood transmits the broken down chemicals to the brain and other parts of the body(Goldschmidt, 336). As this happens, THC chemical is absorbed into the brain which in turn activates the neurotransmitter senses in the brain that are responsible for taste which results in increases appetite. While this can play a significant role in terms of raising patient’s appetite, those who are against marijuana use argue that while this may be effective for a short time, the long term negative effects of using marijuana far outdoes any little significant positive effect that marijuana may have on people. They further argue that these are all attempts to sneak in marijuana by citing its usefulness medically. They are of the opinion that allowing the use of marijuana has more consequences than its uses that have been put forward by those who want it legalized. Medically, marijuana has been known to have some long term effects on the users of the drug. For example, impaired thinking imbalanced mood swings and the inability to perform complex tasks are some of the notable long time side effects that are known to affect marijuana users.
Another potential use of marijuana that is medically connected is that it has the ability to stop vomiting and nausea in patients especially the ones undergoing chemotherapy. Some studies that have been conducted on the THC component of marijuana shows that it is twice more likely to stop nausea and vomiting in patients as compared to other active substances and chemicals used by doctors to control vomiting and nausea in patients. The graph below is an illustration of the tests that was carried out.
Percentages of patient are preferring cannabinoids or control for future chemotherapy. Each symbol represents one trial. Symbol sizes are proportional to trial sizes. The solid line represents equality
At the end of the trial, patients were asked which method they preferred to use. Between 38% and 90% of them preferred to use cannabinoids. Such tests cannot be taken conclusively since more tests are being done by scientists to ascertain with surety that such figures are a true representation of the current trends. However, such tests cannot also be ignored because even though they are not conclusive, they represent a research that have been done on real people and their wishes were that they would wish to use cannabinoids as a pain relieving agent in their future chemotherapy sessions. The optimistic position about this research concerning cannabinoid use is that an overwhelming number of patients preferred to use it for future chemotherapy even though it was only slightly more effective than other antiemetics. Going by this, it is important to note that patients’ view is more important than the scientifically researched efficacy of that particular intervention. Conversely, the pessimistic position as held by the opposers of using cannabinoids as a treatment for nausea and vomiting is that in as much as patients may prefer treatment using cannabinoids, the side effects of using it is still high as compared to other antiemetics. For example, the toxicity levels in cannabinoids that are deposited in the body were found to be much higher as compared to other antiemetics.
Other medical uses of marijuana that doctors have been known to prescribe to their patients include the treatment of chronic pain, anorexia, sleep disorder and muscle spasticity. Some patients suffer great degree of sleep disorder and are unable to sleep without some form of medication. Doctors have been known to prescribe doses of marijuana to help such patients with their sleeping disorders so that they are able to achieve some level of sleep. In the same breadth, some doctors have been known to give their patients doses of marijuana to help them improve their eating habits by improving their appetite since using marijuana enhances one’s appetite (Richardson, 320). At the same time, using marijuana can be effectiveintreating muscle spasticity as it gives pain reliving effect that is achieved through the process of relaxation. This is achieved when certain receptors increase the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is related to supressing pain while releasing the feelings of pleasure. While all these can be valid reasons for medical use of marijuana, the opponents of marijuana argue that these are just some of the ways that drug cartels are using to try and sneak in marijuana use in the country. Their position is that using marijuana is more harmful compared to any gains that could possibly be derived from its medical use. They argue further that even those who are currently under treatment and are using marijuana, witness too many side effects as compared to patients who are using other pain relievers. In any case, they argue that there are far too many effective pain relievers in the market that are way better than cannabis and hence doctors should concentrate on these pain relievers rather than vouching for cannabis.
Side effects of marijuana
Cannabis has several side effects that are flouted by those who oppose its use as the major reasons why it should not be allowed even for medical reasons. Even though many physicians are that using cannabis is quite safe to temporarily supress or alleviates the symptoms of some ailments, its use especially for recreational purposes is poorly understood among the population. Researchers are worried that its popularity among the youth could lead to catastrophic consequences in the future stemming from the side effects that are likely to be experienced by the users over a long period of time. Among the concerns that the researchers are worried about include the fact that the youth may not experience the maturation of their adolescent brains as well as experiencing reducing IQ especially after using for a long time (Richardson, 320). These and the factors enumerated below are some of the side effects that worry world leaders as well as other concerned parties.
- Mental Impairness
A number of researches that have been carried out reveal that using marijuana over a long period of time is detrimental to some brain functions especially memory and attention. These researches have revealed that marijuana users perform worse in terms of tests that are geared towards working the memory. It has been noted that such people have difficulty in remembering short words as well as some short lists of numerals. In the same tests, researchers found out that such people have problems with their concentration. The tests have shown that using the drug blunts concentration. This means that cannabis users cannot concentrate on an activity for too long without losing focus. It should be noted that compared to non-users, marijuana users have a short concentration span. Furthermore, such people are unable to quickly their surroundings for obstacles owing to a weak motor coordination. Mental Impairness is one of the side effects that have researchers worried especially for the youth because of the long term effects it may have on their mental capacities.The reason for this worry is quite valid because one of the direct consequences that this may have on the public is when driving. A marijuana user is three times more likely to cause an accident on the road than a non-user(Huestis, 630). Research show that due to their weak and slow motor coordination, a person under the influence of marijuana is slow to hit the brakes and by the time they do, it would often be too late. Same research shows that such people cannot safely cross lanes without endangering other road users.
- Impact on health
Recent studies on animals and in vitro studies have revealed that they is a potential link between marijuana and sexual health. The test shows that sexual health especially in male users is somewhat affected especially in terms of erection. It is noteworthy to include here that this is still undergoing some scientific research to ascertain with surety that this is the case. Until then, researchers are relying on this test to argue their case against marijuana use as having a negative impact on sexual health especially pertaining to erectile functions especially in male users(Richardson, 320). In addition, some British researchers found some compelling evidence that goes to show that marijuana use over a long period of time can potentially alter human DNA such that such people become at high risk of contracting such diseases as cancer for example testicular cancer in males as was found by researchers at Fred Hutchinson cancer research centre.
However, some researches have not shown any relation between cannabis and its adverse impact on health. They argue thatMarijuana should not be treated as the root cause of all evil in the world instead, those against its use should focus on finding the best approach to dealing with such ‘evil.’
(c) Effect on Immune functions
A team of immunologists from the international arena studying the effect of cannabis on the human immune system found out that smoking marijuana can supress the immune system of an individual. The research which was published in the European Journal of Immunology has revealed that marijuana users are more susceptible to certain diseases and ailments compared to ‘normal’ people, for example certain types of cancer and other infections. They explained that immune cells in the system of a human, work to defend the body against attack from foreign bodies such as disease causing pathogens(Röhrich, 223). However, in marijuana users, the human cells which are responsible for immune system, myeloid-derived suppressor cells or MDSCs are supressed thus leaving the body vulnerable for attack by certain diseases and infections mentioned above. The team of scientists found out that while most immune cells work hard to protect the host from attack from cancer causing pathogens, the MDSCs cells on the other hand, works actively to supress the immune system. This is achieved when cannabinoids triggers the release of massive numbers of MDSCs by activation of cannabinoid receptors resulting in the suppression of the immune system.The opponents of legalization of marijuana see this as a bigger threat compared to any small advantage that marijuana could possibly have on the health of a human being.
The above effects are just some of the reasons and factors that those who oppose the legalization of marijuana use to argue against its legalization. Apart from the above reasons, other reasons that its opposers cite as reasons why it should remain banned include: addiction effects, cost factor, economically unproductive individuals among others. Addiction effects in the sense that the drug is very addictive and individuals may find it very difficult to withdraw from the habit once they are hooked. Economically speaking, most marijuana addicts are not economically active people. Due to addiction, most of them lost their jobs or could no longer concentrate on any productive economic activity(Huestis, 630). Seeing as America has an increasing number of youths who are increasingly turning to cannabis as their choice of pleasure, the country has valid reasons to be greatly concerned about its future. It is often said that the youth are the future of a nation. If a sizable chunk of the youth is hooked to drugs, then a nation will experience retarded economic growth because of people who are not able to work and contribute positively to the economy. On the other hand, the supporters of marijuana argue that criminalization of the drug has not led to a reduction in its use. Instead, there are a growing number of users in recent times as compared to a few years before (Wang, 38). The proponents of this argument say it would be easier and wiser for governments to regulate the use and sale of marijuana much like alcohol. In America, for example, across all states, there are very stringent rules, regulations and even laws governing the sale and consumption of alcohol where alcohol sellers are required to regulate on how much alcohol can be sold to an individual so as to curb excessive consumption. The supporters of decriminalizing the use of marijuana are proposing for a similar regulation of selling and consumption of the drug whereby there will be very little or no incidences of its abuse thereby leading to responsible consumption.
It is to be noted that legal prohibition of marijuana does not stop sellers from selling it nor does it stop users from using it. If this is the case then, could legalizing marijuana make it become controlled than it is now? Some supporters are of the opinion that the very fact that marijuana is illegal makes a lot of people even more determined to get their hands on the drugs. Their viewpoint is that if the drug was made legal, some people would lose interest since a number of users especially the youth just want to prove a point to their peers by doing something illegal such as smoking marijuana to make them look ‘cool’ or tough among their circle of friends (Wang, 38). Secondly, the supporters of legalization of marijuana argue that it is easier to legalize the use of marijuana by having a controlled system of its use much like controlling the use of alcohol in most American states. The United States has some of the most stringent alcohol laws in the world. Alcohol sellers are required to undergo rigorous inspections before they can be approved to sell alcohol to the public. The supporters of legalization of marijuana argue that the federal government could come up with a similar control mechanism where the sellers of marijuana are ‘veted’ and documented and are given stringent rules within which they have to abide by to eliminate issues of cannabis abuse. There is also another theory being floated by the supporters of legalization of marijuana that through having a control mechanism of the sale of marijuana, not only does the government have the control of the trade, but it is also able to get good revenue stemming from taxation of such enterprises.
For those who oppose legalization of marijuana, such arguments are myopic in their opinion. Their reasoning is that the drug is already a disaster when illegal, how could it possibly be less abused if legalized? They are of the view that if marijuana is legalized on these premises, the country will be courting a disaster (Goldschmidt, 336). It is to be noted that most people agitating for the drugs’ legalization are not even vaguely interested in its medical benefits being floated about. They are in it purely as a means of making tones of money or they are either users in which case they are only interested in it purely for pleasure purposes. They further argue that it would be near impossible to have control of the business since there are already too many powerfuldrug cartels operating the business and taking control from them would be impossible. Furthermore, they argue that how would the government live with itself by taking money from a trade (through tax) that is obviously harmful and dangerous to the society. How would the government come up with the tax ratios to tax marijuana? These are some of the pertinent issues that opposers of legalization of marijuana are determined to use stop the drug from being legalized. They further argue that the common the idea of drawing parallels between marijuana and alcohol is not workable. The best example could that of gambling. When it became legal, there was a lot of jubilation and the authorities promoted it diligently as it was a new way of getting revenues for them. Many years down the line gambling has become ‘a thorn in the flesh’ most states in America. Not only have the gambling companies brought in illegal gambling activities through legal channels but they have also found ways and means of not returning their due taxes. Opposers of the legalization of marijuana see a similar situation happening if the drug is legalized.
Going by the points and facts about marijuana, it is clear that it does more harm than good to individuals and the society at large. Studies show that since some countries such as Germany and Holland and some states in America have legalized the drug, there have been more arrests made worldwide relating to marijuana use. This is because more and people start to believe that for these countries to legalize the drug, then it must be good. My suggestion is that the drug should remain banned and illegal worldwide. The major reason why marijuana should remain illegal is because of its impact on the health of the users who with time are reduced to a shelf of their former self. They become people who are not productive and are reliant on others for sustenance.
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Richardson, Gale A., et al. “Prenatal alcohol and marijuana exposure: effects on neuropsychological outcomes at 10 years.” Neurotoxicology and teratology 24.3 (2002): 309-320.
Huestis, M. A. “Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of the plant cannabinoids, Δ 9-tetrahydrocannibinol, cannabidiol and cannabinol.” Cannabinoids. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2005. 657-690.
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Wang, Xiaoyin, et al. “One minute of marijuana second hand smoke exposure substantially impairs vascular endothelial function.” Journal of the American Heart Association 5.8 (2016): e003858.