It’s no secret that the heavy debate over marijuana use and it’s legalization has long troubled many Americans, either just looking for the ability to ingest their preferred relaxer the same way others drink alcohol after a tiring day, or because of legitimate medical concerns. Of course, in a federal decision big and prolific enough to match Prohibition, there are many underlying political aspects that have to be taken into account.
In current times, only a select few of the 50 states have moved to lift the ban on medicinal use, though the federal ban is still in place; long before the United States was even conceived, however, many other cultures had already begun to use the plant for it’s many different medical applications. The completely natural herb was not always deemed an illegal substance, though, and due to its inherent medicinal value should be legalized at the all levels within the United States. Many civilizations have been unearthed and found to have used marijuana in medical practices that date as far back as 8000 B. C.
The practices themselves varied, but the effects were much the same; the herb was used to reduce pain in many different ways, ranging from the Egyptians use of it in the treatment of sore eyes all the way to the Greeks technique to remedy earaches with it (Webley). In India, it was even mixed with milk to make a primitive but effective anesthetic. A case can then be made, due to it’s long ranging historical use, that throughout the time of man marijuana has had a critical influence on our medical treatments.
The United States once enjoyed a period of time when the criminalization of the plant Walrath 2 hadn’t even been thought of on a massive scale and America had been accepting of marijuana since the continent’s discovery, as “farmers in colonial Jamestown were urged to grow hemp” (Webley). It wasn’t until the 19th century that the herb became a focal issue in American politics, when a man by the name of Harry J. Anslinger was given the position of Director of Narcotics in 1930 by Andrew Mellon.
Initially only cracking down on opiate and cocaine use, Anslinger feared that in order to make his career he would need more; he then introduced marijuana into his campaign, and attributed it with what he called the degenerate races that plagued the states. Marijuana and the Mexican minority in the country were largely linked, and Anslinger had once said that “the Mexican laborers have brought seeds of this plant into Montana and it is fast becoming a terrible menace, particularly in the counties where sugarbeets are grown” (Bonnie).
During this period of time, the United States was still heavily racist and Anslinger used this to his advantage by tying jazz music and other forms of entertainment to the corruption of America’s youth. In 1937 the Marijuana Tax Act was proposed, which called for taxes to be placed on any products that had traces of marijuana. Anslinger wanted to create a problem where there initially was none regardless of its medical value. Up until this point the medical community had been using marijuana for special treatments, and “19th century journals praised the plant’s medical effectiveness” (Webley).
Astonished by the bold claims being made by Anslinger, many challenged him in court and stated that he was falsifying information, and that marijuana was safe to use medically. Unfortunately, Anslinger had already won over most of the public with his racist ideals and through his partnership with William Randolf Hearst. Hearst, owner of a large newspaper chain, had quite a few reasons to help Anslinger.
First, he was racist Walrath 3 nd disliked Mexicans, who at this point in time were taking the brunt of anti-marijuana sentiment; second, he had investments in the timber industry that would have been in danger due to the competition of hemp paper (Guither). Through Hearst’s yellow journalism, Anslinger turned public opinion of the plant, and evidently won in court over the medical community. As a result, Anslinger was able to create anti-marijuana propaganda for the rest of his career as the Director of Narcotics. In the year 1970 the Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug.
What makes a drug Schedule I is the extreme risk for abuse, along with having no medical value. This put marijuana alongside dangerous and often non-natural drugs, such as opiates or hallucinogens. However, the Food and Drug Administration, commonly referred to by its acronym FDA, is the true regulator of what considers a drug for medical use; to the FDA, drugs are “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals; and articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or any other animal”(Cohen).
The FDA, therefore, has acknowledged that marijuana is a drug due to the way it affects the function of man, but they also acknowledge that it has the potential to cure, treat, or prevent diseases. While not all Schedule I drugs adhere to this, there is definitive proof from 8000 B. C. and onward that the plant can hold many medical properties. In fact, according to Pete Guither, “marijuana has only been illegal for 1% of the time that it has been in use” (Guither).
That could lead one to speculate that the majority of its use throughout history has been mainly for its medicinal properties, which helped create ancient remedies such as the ones discussed earlier. Very recently, however, there have Walrath 4 been many states that have actually legalized medical marijuana, and have seen the positive effects it can have on a community first-hand
The term medical marijuana can actually refer to two different forms the plant can be found; it can be found as Endocannabinoids and Phytocannabinoids (Chaboya-Hembree). Endocannabinoids deal with the effects of the plant on neurotransmitters, though the most medically relevant form is the Phytocannabinoid, which contains THC and cannabidiol. THC stands for Tetrahydrocannabinol, and is directly connected to the psychoactive effects of marijuana while the cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is linked to the sedative effects.
The differences between THC and CBD, as noted by Jan Chaboya Hembree, are that “THC has analgesic, anti-spasmodic, anti-tremor, anti-inflammatory, appetite stimulant and antiemetic properties, whilst CBD has anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-oxidant, neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effects” (Chaboya-Hembree). Common effects that can be observed from exposure to THC are euphoric sensations, relaxation of the body, alterations to perception, and the intensification of ordinary experiences.
Some of these effects, such as muscle relaxation for example, have been helpful when used medically to people who suffer from chronic joint or bone pains. Medicinally, the plant should be taken in small doses and only as needed; whereas, marijuana abuse is associated with daily usage more than once a day and more than is needed, and largely classifies a more recreational approach to the herb. The argument made by the medical community is that “all approved medications used in legitimate practice of medicine are associated with adverse effects; there is no a priori reason why marijuana should be different” (Cohen).
Therefore, those in the medical community are backing the limited or Walrath 5 controlled legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, and believe it would be of immense help in the treatment of many United States citizens thanks to the chemical properties of THC and CBD. In fact, CBD is not intoxicating like THC is; it has even been postulated that “the presence of CBD in cannabis may alleviate some of the potentially unwanted side-effects of THC” (Chaboya-Hembree).
Many people do not actually have a problem with marijuana, but rather dislike how it is administered into the body. The most common form of use is smoking the plant and inhaling the smoke into the lungs, known to be a big cause of respiratory illnesses. In order for the effects of the THC to be felt the plant needs to be heated up and exposed to the body. There is no definitive proof that the inhaled smoke from the marijuana plant causes lung cancer, and cigarette smoke is more well known as a leading cause.
This mixed with the widespread view of disgust associated with cigarette smoke has caused many people to falsely conclude that smoking marijuana can cause lung cancer. Although, according to the Bureau of Mortality Statistics, marijuana has made up for a total of zero American deaths. As a result of this miscommunication between the medical community and society, many people do not see any reason in smoking a substance to treat their sickness if it may only lead to another possibly more serious illness.
One would essentially be trading one ailment for another. In some cases, such as terminal cancer, it could be a justifiable tradeoff, but for use in chronic pain it seems like a risky course of treatment as opposed to more reliable pain relievers. Of course, in this modern era there are safer, less controversial forms of administration; in order for the effects of THC to be felt, the substance must be heated up to a high temperature so that the THC can be absorbed.
Throughout the Walrath 6 istory of marijuana use, smoking has always been the easiest way to acquire THC absorption; recently, however, vaporization has quickly risen to become one of the healthier, more preferred methods of administration. The act of vaporizing the plant allows for it to be heated up to the desired temperature without its smoky bi-product, drawing pure THC out without burning up plant matter; as such, it is much healthier for the body and even allows for more absorption of THC into the body. This is perhaps the safest and healthiest way to medicate with marijuana, next to baking the THC into food and simply ingesting it.
One is no longer being exposed to the harmful carcinogens associated with the act of smoking. If patients were administered marijuana through vaporization, they would feel all the positive effects of the THC without the potential consequences of developing respiratory problems as a result of the treatment. Marijuana could, if legalized, be administered to the elderly or those with pre-existing respiratory problems through vaporization and possibly provide more comfort in their lives without risk of developing or worsening lung-involved illnesses.
One of the most baffling medical hurdles that continues to prove problematic even today is the disease known as cancer, and the lack of available treatments that help to prevent or cure the deadly disease. With evidence that shows it has plagued humans and animals for millennia, cancer can come in many different types, appearing in scores of different areas within the body and affecting the body in a multitude of ways. One thing is common in all types of cancer, and that is the ability to rapidly multiply until essentially shutting down as well as blocking many vital parts of the body needed to survive.
However, scientists have recently been able to use marijuana to push back or destroy many of the more aggressive cancers that have shown up in Walrath 7 humans. In September of 2012, the medical community released an article detailing how marijuana actually stops aggressive cancers from metastasizing, as well as even being able to return the affected cells back to their original states. According to Robin Wilkey, scientists have found that CBD, a non-toxic and non-psychoactive chemical compound found in marijuana, “can actually turn off the ID1 gene, a gene that promotes cancer growth, prevalent in many aggressive cancers” (Wilkey).
Also, as previously stated, it is a non-psychoactive component and the patient would not experience the feelings associated with being high, like they would if administering THC (Chaboya-Hembree). With this property of the plant only recently coming to light, doctors and scientists alike have high hopes that marijuana may actually possess many medical properties and secrets that have yet to be uncovered.
If marijuana were legalized for medical use it would allow scientists to acquire samples more easily and readily in order to run tests and attempt to find more inherit medical properties. The 2012 study showed evidence to support the idea that marijuana is able to medically treat certain types of one of the worst diseases on Earth. Therefore, from a strictly medical perspective, if marijuana were legalized it would be both easier and safer to treat many Americans for many different ailments.