Marijuana: Yes or no to medicinal use?

The use of marijuana for medical purposes has been debated for many years. While some consider the plant to be a phenomenal ailment reliever, others believe that the psychoactive and harmful effects overpower the possible benefits. In the most recent chain of events, on April 20, the FDA rejected medical use for marijuana. Although a number of states have passed legislation allowing for marijuana to be used medically, the FDA says that these laws are inconsistent with the new rulings.

Canada has taken a different route from the U.S., however, and has allowed for medical testing and prescription use of the substance. Canadian researchers have recently discovered that marijuana can cause the neurons in the brain to regenerate.

Marijuana has been on the medical scene in the US since the beginning of the 19th century. Doctors recommended that it should be sold over the counter as a pain reliever, but it soon lost popularity with the development of aspirin. In 1937, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which eventually led to use of the substance being criminalized. The American Medical Association was the solitary opponent to this legislative step. Since that time, marijuana has been outlawed by the federal government and has been banned for medicinal use.

In the 1960s, marijuana was found to reduce intra-ocular (internal eye) pressure and helped patients with glaucoma, helping to prevent blindness. It was also found to eliminate the nausea experienced during cancer chemotherapy. Lastly, marijuana was found to control muscle spasms associated with spinal cord injury.

The part of marijuana that is responsible for the “high” condition associated with the drug was found to be delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The chemical compound was isolated, approved by the FDA, and sold under the name Marinol. Marinol had too many side effects and was too expensive for the common person. Smoking marijuana also immediately releases THC into the blood stream, while taking a capsule took an hour before relief was finally felt.

In 1996, California permitted patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. This led to political contradictions because a state law conflicted with a federal law. The public disagreed with laws that restricted patients’ use of marijuana. The federal government then decided to modify their policies. They did not change their perspective on outlawing marijuana, but allowed for more marijuana research in order to better understand its effects.

The reliability of medicinal marijuana research has been questioned. This is because an effective placebo for marijuana cannot be created, as traditional research methods require. A placebo is an inactive substance that is given as a control and has no therapeutic effects. Using humans as subjects, two groups would have to be created, one that received marijuana and one that did not. The psychoactive properties of marijuana cannot be replicated in a placebo, and thus prevents such an experiment from being conducted.

The debate and controversy surrounding the use of medicinal marijuana is expected to continue until a successful compromise between researchers and proponents is reached.