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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Medicinal Marijuana

Medicinal marijuana has been a hot topic for debate in recent years with many intelligent and valid points made by both sides. After listening to the arguments for years, engaging both supporters and opponents of the practice, and a lot of thought I have reached a decision on where I stand on this issue. I am not for medical marijuana, but I am for medicine derived from marijuana.

Two questions must now be answered: Why do I support medicine derived from marijuana? And why, if I support this medicine, do I oppose simply using the marijuana itself?
First my support for medicine derived from marijuana. Our best pain medications are all powerful and highly addictive opiates and narcotics. These drugs are so addictive that many people who are prescribed them become addicted, and sometimes this addiction is alarmingly fast. They have also produced a black market for prescription drugs that in some areas surpasses the market for banned substances. Morphine, Oxycontin, Percoset, and Vicodin are just a few popular drugs that addict their users and have a thriving black market. Studies show that the active ingredients in marijuana are at least much less addictive, and possibly non-addictive.

Also, current prescription medications have a laundry list of side effects that amount to one thing . . . bad news for longtime users. The main drawbacks to extended use of prescription painkillers are organ damage, an altered mental state, and other health problems. The active ingredients in marijuana are physically less damaging than existing painkillers in adults, developing bodies and minds are adversely affected by marijuana, even pro-marijuana groups admit to this. As for the altered metal state produced by marijuana, well, the other painkillers do the same thing. Nobody on any of these drugs should operate a car, gun, or heavy machinery.

Finally, studies on drugs have shown that the older, simpler drugs are significantly safer for the human body. THC is an old and simple drug with a long history and well known and documented effects, and reportedly kills pain better than the legal drugs. These new designer painkillers frequently have unexpected tragic consequences on the users and do get pulled from the market because the newfound risks are just too great, resulting in multibillion dollar lawsuits. It just seems safer to use such a well known drug than a chancy new one.

Now for my opposition to the use of marijuana itself as a drug. Put simply, the active ingredients can be extracted from the plant and administered in regulated doses the same way penicillin was once extracted from a kind of mold. All the benefits are available without the need to smoke it up and do as much lung damage as a cigarette if not more. Also, since marijuana plants are so easily grown then having the plant itself or traditional forms of use legalized in any way would strengthen the black market for the drug.

Admittedly, a pill, syrup, or spray that contains THC would be used as a party drug in exactly the same manner as the plant itself currently is. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it would be exactly the same people already using the drug who would be doing it. At least they would be using a safer drug than some mystery plant they buy off the street corner with God-only-knows what else may be mixed into the plant. People have been killed by street marijuana that was beefed up with other drugs without their knowledge. I am against the improper or illegal use of any drug in any form, but when I consider the black market for existing prescription drugs and for marijuana I see THC medicine as a better, if still undesirable alternative.

I have come across existing prescription medications that are basically THC, some derived from the plant, some synthetic. The almost universal consensus from the users of the medicines is that the drugs derived from the plant itself work much better than the synthetics. Throughout this essay I have mostly referred to “the active ingredients in marijuana” with a few references directly to THC. I have done this because the superiority of the plant derivatives to the synthetics suggests that the THC works in tandem with one or more other substances in marijuana to produce the medicinal effects. This suggests further study should be encouraged into exactly what in the marijuana plant acts as a painkiller.

In short, I am against the illegal use of any drug. I am also bothered by the addiction rate and nasty side effects of current prescription painkillers. The data suggests marijuana is a safer and cheaper alternative. The plant itself should not be used because of the real impossibility of regulating it. The downfall is that the legally produced drug would be used as a party drug, but the plant already is anyway so I see not net change in recreational use, with the possibility of wrecking the current black market for marijuana by introducing a safer alternative. I will not go into the possible economic benefit for farmers, who would need to be properly licensed and inspected, or the other products derived from the hemp plant. The drugs already exist and are being safely used in some other countries. Let’s try a test run here in the United States and see if the benefit truly does outweigh the risks.

3 Comments:

  • I agree.

    My father has muscular dystrophy, and has been on a myriad of pain killers for years. He doesn't take them; rather, he smokes pot.

    I'd feel much better if he were taking a medicinal form of THC rather than inhaling smoke, paper, and plant ash. Studies show that one marijuana joint has more carcinogens than an entire pack of cigarettes.

    By the way, I just bought 1250 shares of your blog. DON'T DISAPPOINT ME. :-P

    By Anonymous Steve the Pirate, at 7:20 AM  

  • You've summed up my feelings on the subject precisely, agreed.

    Regulation as a schedule 1 substance would be required were we to derive a medicine (THC) from MJ.

    I also would not want a mechanic to work on my brakes while taking such a substance, or fly a plane, etc. so there must be some legal way to test for useage. On that same point, if
    pilots, truckers, the military, police are subject to random drug testing, why not teachers, nurses, day care providers, legislators? Aren't they at least as important to society -- and as such -- just as dangerous as someone who's judgment is impaired?

    Certainly would weed out (pardon for the pun) certain members of Congress, Mayors of cities, etc.

    The medical marijuana ploy from NORML would allow anyone with an agreeable doctor to continue to smoke for recreational reasons.

    Making it a prescription pill would remove most of the sociality of passing around a joint, and remove billions of revenue from mob thugs.

    By Blogger meesterjoneser, at 7:35 AM  

  • Dear Friends , I was a cab owner who was hit from behind while sitting at a red light resulting in severe muscle damage that led to improper nerve firing , severe pain . I have vascular damage still 12 years later . They put me on opiates . I was driving around legally per DOT rules in work rehap with Duragesic Morphine patches , high amounts of valium for muslce spasming . I passed every drug test as I was legally percribed . It was true I performed better then if not medicated . However after 5 years of that insanity I had to stop working when the opiates did also . Using Sativex would be much better . It should be available . There are tons of people out there driving around on antidepresants muscle relaxers , opiates all legal . When you first take your meds you slowly adjust into operating machinery . People on meds are not getting high they are maintenence dosing and you learn and compensate . The altered state becomes your normal state there are no peaks and valleys . I do not get high from morphine but I do go into severe withdrawls with depression after 12 years if I don't take it and they are life threatening . This would be worth a try . In the USA we are so ridiculously puritan not I doubt we will get help for a long time . It is legal in Canada I sujest people take have their social security disabillity checks sent to their US bank but spend 5 months one year up there trying it out . It works and meds are cheaper up there .

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:54 PM  

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