The Legalization of Medical Marijuana: To Smoke or Not to Smoke?
The slightest mention of the word “medical marijuana” will instantly divide a group into two, i.e., supporters and opponents to the idea. They are both anxious and eager to present arguments.
The supporters are angry that the government still insists on marijuana not holding legitimate medical value. The opponents fear that legalization of medical marijuana is the first step towards legalization of other outlawed, “hard” drugs.
Cannabis – The Basics
Marijuana refers to dried buds, leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant, which tends to grows in warm and dry climates. It is also known as weed, grass, pot, herb, hash, etc. When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from their lungs to their bloodstreams, and via that to their brain and other organs. A person might experience effects like:
- Altered senses, like seeing brighter colours and having an altered sense of time
- Changes in mood
- Impaired memory and an inability to think properly
- Hallucinations and delusions, when marijuana is taken in higher doses
Marijuana is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States, after alcohol.
Medical Marijuana is legal in 33 U.S. states and the district of Columbia. Worldwide, 31 countries have legalized medical marijuana. Notably, Canada claims the largest overall market where the use of marijuana is legal in both medical and recreational activities.
The legalization of marijuana is viewed favourably by many, including members of the medical community, because it:
- Is considered to be very effective in relieving feelings of nausea and vomiting. It may also help people with anxiety, PTSD, or depression.
- Can be used in treatment for cancers, especially with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
- Is excellent in relieving certain types of pain, such as chronic pain, including neuropathic pain. Marijuana has also been considered safer than some other medications prescribed to treat the same symptoms.
- Can be incorporated in other medical products and can be consumed without smoking while still having the same medical benefits, including products like cannabidiol (CBD) oils and edibles.
- Is used to treat a number of other diseases as well, like Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, eating disorders, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, etc.
For every person who stands in the favour of legalization of marijuana, there is one who argues against it, saying that it:
- Can seriously affect memory if marijuana is consumed too frequently. It will reduce the inhibition of neuronal signalling caused by cannabinoids.
- Can be dangerous for lung tissues when smoked in excess, just like any other type of smoking, e.g., tobacco.
- Can become a “gateway” drug to other “hard”, illegal drugs.
- Raises heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking, which may increase the chances of a heart attack.
- Has potential for hallucinations, paranoia, delusion, withdrawal symptoms, and disorganised thinking.
- Reduces sexual capacity and effects male sex hormones.
- Can cause Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome with regular, long-term use. This causes regular cycles of nausea, vomiting and dehydration, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention.
- Induces apathy and drowsiness which may affect personality and mood.
Regarding marijuana being a gateway drug, studies have found that marijuana consumption does change how one’s brain responds to other drugs. This may support the theory that marijuana is a gateway drug, but the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other “harder” drugs and it has been found that cross-sensitization is not just unique to marijuana, but also happens in alcohol and nicotine use, both legal substances.
There is benefit and harm, especially when used in excessive quantities, to smoking marijuana. The debate stays open, but in most countries the government still frowns upon the use of marijuana, even for medical reasons and even when the marijuana is only sold at registered dispensaries.
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ‘Marijuana: How Can It Affect Your Health?’, official CDC website (accessed on 15th of April, 2020)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, ‘Marijuana’, official NIDA website (accessed on 15th of April, 2020)
- National Conference of State Legislatures, ‘State Medical Marijuana Laws’, official NCSL website (accessed on 15th of April, 2020)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, ‘Is marijuana a gateway drug?’, official NIDA website (accessed on 15th of April, 2020)