Top 5 arguments surrounding the legalization of Cannabis (Marijuana)

Posted on March 29, 2014

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You may know it as weed, ganja, pot, blunt, dope, smoke, herb etc, but its technical name is Cannabis (aka Marijuana), and it is the most common illicit drug used in the United States. It refers to the parts of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds.

 

The federal government considers Marijuana a Schedule I substance (having no medicinal uses and high risk for abuse), therefore legalization on a federal level will probably not happen anytime in the next decade. However, 2 states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, and 20 states have passed laws allowing its use as a treatment for certain medical conditions. Here is  a summary chart  of all the 20 Legal Medical Marijuana States (and DC) as well as the details by state.

There have been several debates about why or why not legalization would be a good idea (See Dr. Sanjay Gupta vs. Dr. Howard Samuel) , and I have decided to shed some light on some of the most common points from each opposing side:

ARGUMENTS FOR CANNABIS 

It stops HIV from spreading: A Lousiana State University study has shown that after administering a daily dose of THC to monkeys infected HIV, the damage to the immune tissue in the monkeys’ stomach decreased. A few other studies have shown that infected monkeys treated with THC had a better chance of surviving, and that marijuana-like compounds can fight HIV in late-stage AIDS patients.

It provides great pain relief: Marijuana’s effectiveness for anti-inflammatory pain relief has been said to be “several hundred times more powerful than that of aspirin.” Furthermore, the receptors in the brain that allow uptake of cannabinoids (like THC) are actually part of the most widespread receptor system in the body; therefore making it a good choice to treat multiple conditions such as migraines, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis etc.

It slows the progression of Alzheimer’s:  A 2006 study by the Scripp’s research institute has found that marijuana is able to block an enzyme that causes the progression of Alzheimer’s. It also said to prevent “protein clumps that can inhibit cognition and memory.”

Cancer patients can receive multiple benefits: The first being a halt in cancer metastasis, and the second being its antiemetic value.  A 2012 study marijuana having the ability to “stop metastasis in some kinds of aggressive cancer.” A similar study also found that certain non-psychoactive cannabinoids “resulted in dramatic reductions in cell viability” and “caused a simultaneous arrest at all phases of the cell cycle” in leukemia cells. Apparently, researchers in the U.K. have already been able to use marijuana compounds to kill cancer cells in leukemia patients. Furthermore, the notorious emetic effects of chemotherapy regimens are relieved in a matter of minutes after the administration of THC or marijuana.

It reduces seizures: Marijuana is a muscle relaxant and therefore has “antispasmodic” qualities that have proven to be a very effective treatment for seizures and tourette’s. In fact, a Colorado non-profit has developed a free strain called “Charlotte’s Web,” for those who suffer from epilepsy, Parkinson’s and similar conditions.

 

ARGUMENTS AGAINST CANNABIS 

It affects brain development: A study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38. It has also been implied that when used heavily in young people, it affects thinking and causes long-term memory impairment which were not fully restored after quitting as adults. However, those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.

It causes respiratory problems: Frequently smoking marijuana is said to produce similar respiratory problems experienced by tobacco smokers (e.g. cough and phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illness, and a heightened risk of lung infections). It is not yet known whether marijuana smoking contributes to risk for lung cancer.

It increases risk of heart issues: Marijuana apparently raises the human heart rate by about 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; and effect which is said to last up to 3 hours. In one study, it was estimated that marijuana users have a 4.8-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug. This risk may be greater in older individuals or in those with cardiac vulnerabilities.

It  impairs motor skills: Marijuana is said to seriously cause poor judgment and affect motor coordination, therefore contributing to the risk of injury or death while controlling a motor vehicle. A recent analysis of data from several studies found that marijuana use more than doubles a driver’s risk of being in an accident. Also, because it is likely that anyone using marijuana recreationally is also indulging in alcohol, it has been shown that the combination of marijuana and alcohol is worse than either substance alone with respect to driving impairment.

It causes mental illness: A number of studies have apparently linked chronic marijuana use and mental illness. It has been said that high doses of marijuana can produce a temporary psychotic reaction (involving hallucinations and paranoia) in some users, and using marijuana can worsen the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia. A series of large studies following users across time also showed a link between marijuana use and later development of psychosis, especially in those who start young.

What are your thoughts? Are you for or against?

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