Should Marijuana Be Legalized For Medical Purposes?

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Should Marijuana be Legalized for Medical Purposes?

Marijuana has been used extensively as a medical remedy for more than

five thousand years. In the early 1900s, medical usage of marijuana began to

decline with the advent of alternative drugs. Injectable opiates and synthetic

drugs such as aspirin and barbiturates began to replace marijuana as the

physician's drug of choice in the twentieth-century, as their results proved to

be more consistent than the sometimes erratic effects of the hard-to-dose

potencies of marijuana (Grinspoon). The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made cannabis

so expensive to obtain that its usage as a medical remedy in the U.S. came to a

halt. Although now illegal in the U.S., marijuana continues to be used for both

medical and recreational purposes by many Americans. There are a variety of

opinions both for and against the re-legalization of marijuana today. Perhaps

the most controversial aspect of the legalization debate is whether marijuana

should be legalized for medical purposes.

All drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are federally

'Scheduled' by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). A drug's scheduling under

Federal law is determined “according to [its] effects, medical uses, and

potential for abuse” (Claim V). In this classification system, marijuana is a

Schedule I drug, grouped with heroin, LSD, hashish, methaqualone, and designer

drugs. These are drugs having “unpredictable effects, and [causing] severe

psychological or physical dependence, or death” (Claim V).

A closer analysis of the DEA's Federal Scheduling system reveals that,

according to various studies by physicians on both sides of the legalization

debate, marijuana does not meet the requirements of a Schedule I drug, but not

those of Schedule II. The difference between the two classes is that Schedule

I drugs may lead to death, while those on Schedule II are less likely to do so.

Proponents of legalization cite information that indicates marijuana is a

relatively “safe” drug. “There is no known case of overdose; on the basis of

animal models, the ratio of lethal to effective dose is 40,000 to 1” (Grinspoon).

Even some opponents of marijuana legalization support reclassification. Two

physicians, in a widely distributed opinions piece entitled “Marijuana Smoking

as Medicine: A Cruel Hoax”, wrote; “While the reclassification of THC to

Schedule II might be understandable, this would not be the result of smoking the

crude drug marijuana, which would as a result become more available and more

readily diverted for non-medical use” (Nahas). Although this evidence clearly

does not support the legalization of marijuana, it highlights one of many

discrepancies that cloud this smoky debate.

Lester Grinspoon, MD, is a proponent of the medical legalization and re-

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