Sara Phillips, Age 16
What if there was a new medication that could ease sufferer's from some of America's most deadliest diseases such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, spinal spasity, and epileptic seizures? The drug isn't new at all, and it's been used as medicine for over 5,000 years.....it's marijuana! Marijuana should be legalized for medicinal uses because a lot of afflicted people who would benefit from marijuana's use are suffering while the country is fighting over legalization. America should do something, and do it quickly, marijuana should be legalized. Marijuana legalization will have positive effects on doctors, force the government to do more research studies, and make Marinol obsolete. Marinol is a synthetic THC, which is the active chemical of marijuana.
Marijuana is made up of over 420 known elements, which isn't a lot considering that broccoli and coffee have 800 elements. It's main active ingredient is the non-narcotic chemical 1010delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC (Pace, Nicholas A., 1-4). It has 60 unique chemicals, called 'cannabinoids'. Many of these cannabinoids are valuable medicine. For example, 'cannabinol' which helps people with insomnia. Or 'cannabidiolic acid', is a very effective anti-biotic, like penicillin. Other cannabinoids have valuable effects as medicine such as inflammatory disorders (Activity of
Constituents of Cannabis ,
361-371). The cannabinol takes the edge off being 'high' and
it's believed to be the reason why most patients prefer to
use marijuana rather than pure Delta-9-THC pills. 1010
Scientists have invented a synthetic THC which is
administered in pills called Marinol, or Delta-9-THC pills.
So far there are many problems with Marinol, and marijuana
is a much safer and efficient cure (Mestel, Rosie 1-6).
Legalization will effect doctor's in a positive manner, prompting more doctors to recommend marijuana without having to worry about the government punishing them for it's use. The government is currently threatening doctors and forcing them not to prescribe marijuana. For example, if the prescribe marijuana they might lose their privilege to prescribe medicine under DEA and be subject to criminal investigations. The Justice Department also told physicians that they are free to discuss the potential benefits and risks of marijuana with patients, but they will face legal problems if they give patients a recommendation used to obtain marijuana. (Suro, Roberto, A14). Thus the government is stopping marijuana from being used, and not allowing doctors to recommend it, yet allowing the information about marijuana to be expressed. Discussions have never cured diseases, only prescriptions and medication have. Why allow a discussion to continue, if it's not a legal option? The Justice Department shouldn't have such a strong impact over medical issues as it now has. These views are also shared by Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Recently, a group of San Francisco doctors asked Retired Army General, Barry McCaffrey who is currently the director of the Office of National Drug Policy, to help protect them from penalties for recommending marijuana to patients. McAffrey simply said ,"Forget it." McCaffrey later said doctors can't evade the drug laws by claiming that they are merely providing their patients with `recommendations' in accordance with their best medical judgment. (Feds Nix Drug Settlement Offer, page 1-2). McAffrey and the Clinton administration aren't even listening to the doctors, for they have already made up their minds. This caused a group of physicians to file a suit against McCaffrey, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Secretary Donna Shalala, because the doctors feel they are losing their freedom of speech which is guaranteed in the first amendment. If marijuana is legalized, the government won't be able to interfere (Medical Rights Group Files Suit).
Marijuana is the most popular illegal drug in the country. Over 65-70 million American's currently smoke it. (Annas, George, 337). With many people who are finding relief from pain of various diseases. The government shouldn't ignore this issue any more, and should allow scientists to make an effort to update the little information they have on marijuana. Politics should not stand in the way of scientific research.
"Doctors are not the enemy in the 'war' on drugs; ignorance and hypocrisy are. Research should go on, and while it does, marijuana should be available to all patients who need it to help them undergo treatment for life-threatening illnesses. There is certainly sufficient evidence to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug (medication). ... As long as therapy is safe and has not been proven ineffective, seriously ill patients (and their physicians) should have access to whatever they need to fight for their lives." (Annas, George 337).
The information that the Federal government is distributing is from the federally funded research conducted by Dr. Gabriel Nahas, who once declared openly, "I am an enemy of cannabis and I will use all means possible to fight against cannabis." His studies were so biased and unscientific that Nahas was fired by the National Institute of Health. Even Nahas said his own studies are meaningless. For one experiment, he suffocated monkeys for five minutes at a time with 63 joints lighted and using more smoke than the average user inhales in an entire lifetime. Under such conditions, the animals really died from asphyxiation. Smoke from burning wood would have caused the same brain damage. The other studies Dr. Nahas did claim that sensational health risks are also suspect. All his studies lack controls and produce results which cannot be duplicated nor confirmed. One false claim is that smoking marijuana damages the reproductive system. This claim is based chiefly on his experimentions with tissue (cells) isolated in petri dishes, and the work of researchers who dosed animals with near-lethal amounts of cannabinoids. Nahas's generalizations from his petri dishes to human beings have been rejected by the scientific community as being invalid. In the case of the animal experiments, the animals that survived their ordeal returned to normal within 30 days of the end of the experiment. Studies of actual human populations have failed to show that marijuana has a bad effect on the reproductive system (Hager, Paul, 1-2).
Another problem is with relating animal research to human experience. Many animal features are different from humans. Causing some of the information to be inaccurate. Scientists also can't regulate a dosage, unless they use THC only. There would be no purpose to do that, because THC by itself has a different effect than it does when it's smoked with the whole marijuana plant. Because marijuana is illegal, it's against the law for Scientists to test non-smokers. Scientists have no idea about their history with drugs, nor how much they have smoked in the past. Also if tests are done on people with different cultural backgrounds the test results will differ, for some cultures. Foe example, Jamaicans who have a history of smoking (Peter Gorman, page 2-8). There is no proof that marijuana is safe to use as a medicine because scientists aren't allowed to test it to find out it's real values.
Dr. Robert Heath, conducted a study to support that smoking marijuana causes brain damage. He studied the rhesus monkeys, and this study was reviewed by a distinguished panel of scientists sponsored by the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. Heath's work was sharply criticized for its insufficient sample size (only four monkeys), its failure to control experimental bias, and the misidentification of normal monkey brain structure as "damaged." Actual studies of human populations of marijuana users have shown no evidence of brain damage (Hemp, 1-12).
It's not uncommon for both sides to misrepresent information. One misrepresentation, is that marijuana "flattens" human brain waves. A few years ago The Partnership for a Drug-Free America ran a TV ad that first showed a normal human brain wave, and second, a flat brain wave from a 14-year-old "on marijuana." When researchers called up the TV networks to complain about this commercial, the Partnership had to pull it from the air. It seems that the Partnership faked the flat "marijuana brain wave." In reality, marijuana has the effect of slightly increasing alpha wave activity. Alpha waves are associated with meditative and relaxed states which are, in turn, often associated with human creativity damaged the brain (Hager, Paul, 1-3).
"When pure, and administered carefully it is one of the most valuable medicines we posses." Said Doctor JR. Reynolds in England's Premiere Medical Journal. Marijuana has been used as a medication for over at least hundreds of years, and it's values have not been questioned until recently. Marijuana is believed to treat nausea among cancer patients, to ease the pressure of glaucoma in AIDS patients, to restore appetites in reversing a severe weight loss syndrome, to relieve arthritis pain, to ease migraine headaches, to relive menstrual cramps, to control bladder in multiple sclerosis patients, to relieve nausea during pregnancy labor, to blocks epileptic seizures, to help overcome insomnia, to decrease asthma attacks, and treat muscle spacity, which is caused by injury and costs thousands of dollars worth of surgery and can be fatal. Marijuana is very relatively inexpensive, and is never fatal (France, David, pages 1-2). "We know that there are no extreme immediate toxicity issues. It's a very safe drug, and therefore it would be perfectly safe medically to let the patient determine their own dose by the smoking route." (Goldstein, Avram M.D, 1-2). Although marijuana eases pain, it has no effect on mortality in both AIDS and non-AIDS patients (Marijuana Use and Mortality, 585-590).
"Synthetic THC is 'erratic' and unpredictable' and unfit for human use." (Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine, page 3-6). Although THC Marinol is proven to reduce vomiting in cancer patients. THC takes 1-4 hours to take effect, and by that time the patient would have already vomited the pill. Marijuana takes 5-10 minuets to take effect, and there is no worry of an overdose because the patient can continue to smoke until when they feel they are no longer nauseous. Meanwhile, a patient using THC can easily overdose, when this occurs patients are knocked unconscious, and always have side effects of disorientation, paranoia, hallucinations, and manic psychosis (Gettman, Jon, 1-2). What can be expected from a pill that is 99 percent THC? The label on product warns that Marinol brings "disturbing psychiatric symptoms," and that even patients on low doses might experience "a full-blown picture of psychosis." If a patient is already suffering from a terminal disease, the last thing they want is even more side effects to make them feel more uncomfortable, and unpleasant (Scott, Elsa, 2-5).
It's obvious that marijuana's effects are different from Marinol, for in addition to THC marijuana has 60 other cannabinoids which modify absorption, availability and transformation of THC in the body, and which are also biologically active. Besides cannabinoids, 360 other compounds have been identified in the plant material such as terpenes, flavinoids, furan derivatives and alkaloids (The Last Smoke).
THC pills, were invented because there are still many times when a person either cannot, or does not wish to, smoke. Apergillus fungus has no health risk to person with normally functioning immune system. However may increases the risk of a fatal infection in the lungs to HIV patients. Scientist feel the ingestion of purified THC is a much safer alternative in such cases, having no effect on the lungs if taken orally. Smoke also contains carcinogens, and it may harm the immune systems of AIDS patients. The National Cancer Institute says that unless you smoke more than four cigarettes a day, there's no determination that you're moving towards lung damage, and very few people are smoking more than four joints a day. Also some patients many not like the "high". Besides, marijuana's main active ingredient, THC is put in the market in pill form, called Marinol. By having only THC the therapeutic values of marijuana are lost, (The Last Smoke, 35-47) Since Marijuana can be combined with other drugs to achieve a therapeutic goal, then each drug could have lower doses, leading to less side effects. This can't be done with THC (Grassroots Party, 1-3)
"Nearly two-thirds of the oncologists agreed that marijuana was an effective anti-emetic, while 77% of the 157 who expressed a preference said that smoked marijuana is more effective than oral THC" (Dryer, Steve, 1-5).
When the chemicals Olivitol and paramenthadianol are combined, synthetic THC is made. This is being done at Norac Industries owned by Dr. Chester McCluskey in Azusa, California. The olivitol and paramenthadianol are made in Sandoz, New Jersey by Carl Nocka. This is very expensive, for oblivitol costs $1,000 a kilogram. The original work was done by Arthur D. Little and the capsules are made by Banner Laboratories in Los Angeles (Dryer, Steve, 1-5).
"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man." DEA administrative law judge Francis Young declared (Medical Marijuana, 1-2) If it is such an extreme, then why isn't it being used for the good of man? Marijuana should be legalized because it will have a positive effect on doctors. Right now some doctors feel they are becoming the new casualties of the drug war (Voth, Erica A., 1-2). More research would also be done, to prove marijuana to be a very safe and useful drug. Therefor, it's THC alternative won't have to be used, this will save a lot of money, and efficiency.
This is not the first time people wanted marijuana to be legalized, but in November of 1996, but this is the first time that people have a medical reason. California presented proposition 215, which ensures all ill California citizens that they have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where marijuana is recommend by a doctor who has determined that their health would benefit from the use of marijuana. Proposition 215 was approved with a 56% majority. Many organizations support proposition 215, such as the California Nurse Association, California Nurse Alliance, American Head of Family Physicians, and the National Academy of Scientists (Pressure Drop, 1-3).
A federal policy that stops physicians from prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane. The long-term side effects and addiction is an relevant issue with terminal ill patients. It is also hypocritical to forbid physicians to prescribe marijuana while permitting them to use morphine and meperidine to relieve extreme dyspnea and pain. Marijuana should be legalized (Kassirer, Jerome P., 23-30).
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