Front Page
Global Links
Partner Sites
Press Room
Contact Us
NewsInsider - Main Graphic  


Medical Marijuana

Time to stop the Hypocrisy.

By Simi Lipsan
25 June 2005

Medical Marijuana

The use of marijuana for medical treatmnet remains illegal and the enforcement of that law,highly active at present.But with almost 70% of Americans thinking that the use of marijuana for such purposes are fine, isn't it time to stop the hypocrisy, not to mention the millions of dollars spent on arresting otherwise gentle law abiding citizen?

FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS, marijuana has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments. Until 1937, marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) was legal in the United States for all purposes and at least 27 medicines containing marijuana were legally available. Many were made by well-known pharmaceutical firms that still exist today, such as Squibb (now Bristol-Myers Squibb) and Eli Lilly.

Prior to 1937, The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 federally prohibited marijuana. Dr. William C. Woodward of the American Medical Association opposed the Act, testifying that prohibition would ultimately prevent the medicinal uses of marijuana.

In 1970, the federal government passed The Controlled Substances Act, which placed all illicit, and prescription drugs into five "schedules" (categories). Marijuana was placed in Schedule I, defining it as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

This definition simply does not apply to marijuana. Of course, at the time of the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana had been prohibited for more than three decades. Its medicinal uses forgotten, marijuana was considered a dangerous and addictive narcotic.

Research has now shown that marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known. No one has ever died from an overdose, and it has a wide variety of therapeutic applications, including:

AIDS. Marijuana can reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by the ailment itself and by various AIDS medications.

Glaucoma. Marijuana can reduce intraocular pressure, alleviating the pain and slowing-and sometimes stopping-damage to the eyes. (Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. It damages vision by increasing eye pressure over time.)

Cancer. Marijuana can stimulate the appetite and alleviate nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects of chemotherapy treatment.

Multiple Sclerosis. Marijuana can limit the muscle pain and spasticity caused by the disease, as well as relieving tremor and unsteadiness of gait. (Multiple sclerosis is the leading cause of neurological disability among young and middle-aged adults in the United States.)

Epilepsy. Marijuana can prevent epileptic seizures in some patients.

Chronic Pain. Marijuana can alleviate the chronic, often debilitating pain caused by myriad disorders and injuries.

Each of these applications has been deemed legitimate by at least one court, legislature and/or government agency in the United States.

Many patients also report that marijuana is useful for treating arthritis, migraine, menstrual cramps, alcohol and opiate addiction, and depression and other debilitating mood disorders.

Yet the government continues to deny patients treatment that helps them. On June 15, 2005 lawmakers voted down a measure that would have barred the federal government from prosecuting patients who use marijuana under doctor's orders in states with laws that allow the practice.
The House vote came a week after the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the federal government may still enforce national antidrug laws in the states allowing medical marijuana use. The decision effectively gave Congress the right to decide how to regulate marijuana, regardless of state laws.

But lawmakers voted 161 to 264 against an amendment that would have barred the Department of Justice from spending any money arresting or prosecuting medical marijuana users. The amendment gained 13 more votes than an identical measure last year. The vote represented its third defeat in as many trips to the House floor in recent years.

The use of medical marijuana is gaining support, though very slowly. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) tells WebMD that he will continue offering the amendment to appropriations bills in the coming years. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told lawmakers that marijuana is less toxic than many narcotic drugs already approved for use by American doctors. "This is not a bill to make marijuana generally available and it is not a bill to put it in baby formula," he said.

The support is not only from democrats Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California republican and one of the amendment's chief sponsors said "Let's not have a power grab by the federal government at the expense of those poor patients and the right of doctors trying to make these decisions." The state has allowed patients to use marijuana under a doctor's supervision since 1996.

Opponents to the use of medical marijuana have reasons that can easily be disputed. Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Ind.) attacked claims that marijuana has medicinal use, comparing it to the snake oil sold to unsuspecting consumers in the early 1900s and calling doctors who prescribe it "quacks." "Marijuana's active ingredient, THC, is already available in an FDA-approved pill used to treat nausea, Souder said. "You isolate the chemicals inside to treat the disease, you do not smoke pot."

While it is true that THC is available in the FDA approved drug Marinol, The poor solubility of Marinol in aqueous solutions and its high first-pass metabolism in the liver account for its poor bioavailability; only 10-20% of an oral dose reaches the systemic circulation. The onset of action is slow; peak plasma concentrations are not attained until two to four hours after dosing. In contrast, inhaled marijuana is rapidly absorbed. ... Variation in individual responses is highest for oral THC and bioavailability is lowest. It is well recognized that Marinol's oral route of administration hampers its effectiveness because of slow absorption and patients' desire for more control over dosing.

Opponents state that marijuana use will lead to use of harder drugs, that patients will become addicted, that it causes unsocial behavior, that it more damaging than cigarettes and that it will send the wrong message to children.

Let's examine these allegations. This information is according to a report filed by the National Academy of Sciences.

1. Marijuana use will lead to other drugs - "There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. An important caution is that data on drug use progression cannot be assumed to apply to the use of drugs for medical purposes. It does not follow from those data that if marijuana were available by prescription for medical use, the pattern of drug use would remain the same as seen in illicit use."
"There is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular physiological effect."
"It does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association."

2. It is too addictive to be used as a medicine - The fact that this statement is made at all is laughable when you consider the amount of people addicted to FDA approved pain medications such as Oxycodone and Vicodin, but lets see what the experts say. According to the NAS report:

"Some controlled substances that are approved medications produce dependence after long-term use; this, however, is a normal part of patient management and does not generally present undue risk to the patient."

"Animal research has shown that the potential for cannabinoid dependence exists, and cannabinoid withdrawal symptoms can be observed. However, both appear to be mild compared to dependence and withdrawal seen with other drugs."

"A distinctive marijuana and THC withdrawal syndrome has been identified, but it is mild and subtle compared with the profound physical syndrome of alcohol or heroin withdrawal."

"Compared to most other drugs ... dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare."

"Few marijuana users become dependent. ... Dependence appears to be less severe among people who use only marijuana than among those who abuse cocaine or those who abuse marijuana with other drugs (including alcohol)."

"In summary, although few marijuana users develop dependence, some do. But they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs."

3. Marijuana causes rebellious and anti social behavior. - "Although parents often state that marijuana caused their children to be rebellious, the troubled adolescents in the study by Crowley and coworkers developed conduct disorders before marijuana abuse."

4. Marijuana is more dangerous than cigarettes to the respiratory system - "Given a cigarette of comparable weight, as much as four times the amount of tar can be deposited in the lungs of marijuana smokers as in the lungs of tobacco smokers. However, a marijuana cigarette smoked recreationally typically is not packed as tightly as a tobacco cigarette, and the smokable substance is about half that in a tobacco cigarette. In addition, tobacco smokers generally smoke considerably more cigarettes per day than do marijuana smokers."

"There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes cancer in humans, including cancers usually related to tobacco use. ... More definitive evidence that habitual marijuana smoking leads or does not lead to respiratory cancer awaits the results of well-designed case control epidemiological studies."

5. Allowing marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes will send the wrong message to children. - "The perceived risk of marijuana use did not change among California youth between 1996 and 1997. In summary, there is no evidence that the medical marijuana debate has altered adolescents' perceptions of the risks associated with marijuana use."

"Even if there were evidence that the medical use of marijuana would decrease the perception that it can be a harmful substance, this is beyond the scope of laws regulating the approval of therapeutic drugs. Those laws concern scientific data related to the safety and efficacy of drugs for individual use; they do not address perceptions or beliefs of the general population."

Marijuana could be helpful for millions of patients in the United States. Nevertheless, other than for the seven people with special permission from the federal government, medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law!

People currently suffering from any of the conditions mentioned above, for whom the legal medical options have proven unsafe or ineffective, have two options:

1. Continue to suffer without effective treatment; or

2. Illegally obtain marijuana-and risk suffering consequences directly related to its illegality, such as:
*an insufficient supply due to the prohibition-inflated price or scarcity;

* impure, contaminated, or chemically adulterated marijuana;

* arrests, fines, court costs, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation and criminal records.

Marijuana is a much safer drug than many FDA drugs currently being used. People need to be educated so they can distinguish fact from government rhetoric.

© The News Insider