Cannabis is also known as pot, grass plus weed but its formal name is in fact cannabis. It comes from the leaves and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa. It is considered an illegal chemical in the US and many countries and possession of marijuana is a crime punishable by law. The FDA classifies cannabis as Schedule I, substances which have a very high potential for abuse and have no proven medical use. Through the years several studies claim that some elements found in marijuana have medicinal use, especially in terminal diseases such as cancer and AIDS. This started a fierce debate over the pros and cons from the use of medical marijuana. To settle this particular debate, the Institute of Medication published the famous 1999 IOM report entitled Marijuana and Medication: Assessing the Science Base. The particular report was comprehensive but did not give a clear cut yes or any answer. The opposite camps of the medical marijuana issue often cite section of the report in their advocacy arguments. However , although the report clarified many things, this never settled the controversy for good.
Let’s look at the issues that support precisely why medical marijuana should be legalized.
(1) Marijuana is a naturally occurring herb and has been used from South America to Asia as an herbal medicine for millennia. In this day and age when the all natural and organic are important wellness buzzwords, a naturally occurring plant like marijuana might be more appealing in order to and safer for consumers compared to synthetic drugs.
(2) Marijuana provides strong therapeutic potential. Several studies, as summarized in the IOM record, have observed that cannabis can be used as analgesic, e. g. to treat pain. A few studies showed that THC, a marijuana component works well in treating chronic pain experienced by cancer patients. However , studies on severe pain such as those experienced throughout surgery and trauma have not yet proven reports. A few studies, also described in the IOM report, have shown that some marijuana components possess antiemetic properties and are, therefore , efficient against nausea and vomiting, that are common side effects of cancer chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some scientists are convinced that cannabis has some therapeutic potential against neurological diseases such as several sclerosis. Specific compounds extracted from marijuana have strong therapeutic possible. Cannobidiol (CBD), a major component of cannabis, has been shown to have antipsychotic, anticancer and antioxidant properties. Other cannabinoids are actually shown to prevent high intraocular stress (IOP), a major risk factor intended for glaucoma. Drugs that contain active ingredients found in marijuana but have been synthetically produced in the laboratory have been approved by the united states FDA. One example is Marinol, an antiemetic agent indicated for nausea or vomiting and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Its active ingredient is dronabinol, a synthetic delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
(3) One of the major proponents of medical marijuana is the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), an US-based organization. Many healthcare professional societies and organizations have indicated their support. As an example, The American College of Physicians, recommended the re-evaluation of the Schedule I classification of marijuana in their 2008 position paper. ACP also expresses the strong support for research into the therapeutic role of marijuana as well as exemption from federal criminal prosecution; civil liability; or professional sanctioning for physicians who prescribe or even dispense medical marijuana in accordance with condition law. Similarly, protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted under state laws.
(4) Medical marijuana is legally used in numerous developed countries The argument associated with if they can do it, why not all of us? is another strong point. Some nations, including Canada, Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, and Finland have legalized the therapeutic use of marijuana under strict prescription manage.
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Some states in the US are also allowing exemptions.
Now here are the quarrels against medical marijuana.
(1) Insufficient data on safety and effectiveness. Drug regulation is based on safety very first. The safety of marijuana and its particular components still has to first be established. Efficacy only comes 2nd. Even if marijuana has some beneficial health effects, the benefits should outweigh the potential risks for it to be considered for healthcare use. Unless marijuana is proved to be better (safer and more effective) compared to drugs currently available in the market, its acceptance for medical use may be a long shot. According to the testimony of Robert J. Meyer of the Department associated with Health and Human Services having access to a drug or medical treatment, without knowing how to use it or even if it is effective, does not benefit anyone. Simply having entry, without having safety, efficacy, and adequate use information does not help sufferers.
(2) Unknown chemical components. Medical cannabis can only be easily accessible and inexpensive in herbal form. Like other herbs, marijuana falls under the category of botanical products. Unpurified botanical products, however , face many problems which includes lot-to-lot consistency, dosage determination, strength, shelf-life, and toxicity. According to the IOM report if there is any future of marijuana as a medicine, it is based on its isolated components, the cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives. To fully characterize the different components of marijuana would cost so much time and money that the costs of the medications that will come out of it will be too high. Currently, no pharmaceutical business seems interested in investing money to isolate more therapeutic components from marijuana beyond what is already available in the market.
(3) Potential for abuse. Marijuana or even cannabis is addictive. It may not become as addictive as hard medicines such as cocaine; nevertheless it cannot be refused that there is a potential for substance abuse connected with marijuana. This has been demonstrated by a few studies as summarized in the IOM report.
(4) Lack of the safe delivery system. The most common form of delivery of marijuana is by means of smoking. Considering the current trends in anti-smoking legislations, this form of shipping will never be approved by health professionals. Reliable and safe delivery systems in the form of vaporizers, nebulizers, or inhalers are still at the testing stage.
(5) Indicator alleviation, not cure. Even if weed has therapeutic effects, it is just addressing the symptoms of certain illnesses. It does not treat or cure these types of illnesses. Given that it is effective against these symptoms, there are already medications available which work just as well or even better, with no side effects and risk of abuse associated with marijuana.
The 1999 IOM report could not settle the discussion about medical marijuana with scientific evidence available at that time. The survey definitely discouraged the use of smoked cannabis but gave a nod towards marijuana use through a medical inhaler or vaporizer. In addition , the review also recommended the compassionate utilization of marijuana under strict medical guidance. Furthermore, it urged more financing in the research of the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids.
So what stands in the way of clarifying the questions raised by the IOM report? The health specialists do not seem to be interested in having an additional review. There is limited data available and whatever is available is biased towards safety issues on the negative effects of smoked marijuana. Data on efficacy mainly come from studies upon synthetic cannabinoids (e. g. THC). This disparity in data can make an objective risk-benefit assessment difficult.
Scientific studies on marijuana are couple of and difficult to conduct due to limited funding and strict regulations. Due to the complicated legalities involved, very few pharmaceutical companies are investing in cannabinoid research. In many cases, it is not clear how to define healthcare marijuana as advocated and opposed by many groups. Does it only make reference to the use of the botanical product weed or does it include synthetic cannabinoid components (e. g. THC plus derivatives) as well? Synthetic cannabinoids (e. g. Marinol) available in the market are extremely expensive, pushing people towards the more affordable cannabinoid in the form of marijuana. Of course , the issue is more clouded by conspiracy theories relating to the pharmaceutical industry and drug regulators.