The Importance of Medical Marijuana in America

By: Sierra Stadelman In a world where there is substantial evidence of substances working medicinally to improve the quality of life for sick and dying patients it is nearly impossible to think that the morals of individuals hinder scientific progress. Currently less than fifty percent of the United States’ fifty states have laws in act that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes and with countless amounts of research in favor of using the plant, it is outrageous that the help isn’t there to everyone who needs it. Marijuana has been used as a healing agent since the beginning of time. The first documented use of it as a medicine dates all the way back to 2900 BC when the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi referenced that it was a very popular medication to his people, containing both elements of yin and yang. Upon just shallow research, one can find documentation of marijuana used for its medical purposes on every continent (besides Antarctica) throughout the documented history of the world. Keep in mind, in the older days it was purely used for its healing purposes as it did not have the stigma that it has today. In 1619 Jamestown, Virginia even passed a law requiring farmers to grow the plant. Thomas Jefferson, one of the nation’s founding fathers, grew it himself. The United States used it as medicine until 1911 when Massachusetts became the first state to outlaw the use of it. It was outlawed not because it caused concern, but because people realized they could make money off of it being illegal. Shortly after, propaganda films such as Reefer Madness made their debut instilling fear into the American population, a generation whose own parents used the drug without side effects portrayed in the film. The film was financed by a church group with the goal of frightening anyone who watched it out of using the plant. In the use of its fear tactics, truths and actual evidence were swept under the rug and the movie seemed to fulfill its purpose. By 1937, the first documented conviction under United States Federal Law happened for the sales of marijuana. Despite the efforts put into place by the American government, some people still used the drug, as they would not be fooled by the propaganda and saw the beauty in its healing purposes. Research on the drug continued and in 1964, THC (which is the psychoactive component of the drug) was identified. In 1968 the DEA allowed Mississippi to become a grower of the drug for government research purposes. That same year the United Kingdom discovered that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, something that was the ban was lifted on decades prior. Research and debates have continued ever since. Marijuana has been found to treat multiple medical conditions including, but not limited to, glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease, seizures, anorexia (stimulates appetite), nausea (which is beneficial to cancer patients nauseous due to chemotherapy), bipolar disorder, muscle spasms, anxiety, and emphysema. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana does not necessarily get the patient “high”. There are different strains of the drug, including Charlotte’s Web, which has all of its psychoactive agents removed to prevent a high. It was inspired by a child, Charlotte Figi, who required the drug to alleviate life-threatening seizures caused by Dravet Syndrome. She has been the reason for many changes to marijuana laws across America since 2006. She isn’t the first child to dabble in marijuana’s healing purposes either, as there are countless records of families moving to states where medical marijuana is legal to improve the quality of life for their children. It is a common misconception that patients must smoke the drug to activate it, which potentially harms the lungs. However, marijuana can also be vaporized, eaten, or taken in liquid extract form and work just the same, if not more effectively. Just as with anything, marijuana does have side effects. The side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, short- term memory loss, and euphoria, but just like any other medication, it is not a guarantee. Besides, it is highly arguable that the side effects are marginally less severe than the conditions in which the drug aims to treat. The United States makes money each year off of keeping marijuana illegal so it is easy to see why progress is so slow. Between bail and fines it may seem like the government makes a killing. In 2010 alone, 88% of arrests made were related to marijuana possession and those numbers astronomically blow arrests related to violent crime out of the water. However, the war on marijuana actually costs the American government about $20 billion each year and overcrowds the nation’s prisons. Each state contributes millions of dollars to the fight, often not profiting, while Colorado, a state that has legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes is estimated to be banking on a profit of well over $100,000,000 in marijuana tax revenue, which is some food for thought. Not only does it cost the government financially, but it costs America the lives of its people. In fact, a girl my parents once knew fell victim to marijuana related crime caused by police officers. Her name was Rachel Hoffman. She was a 23 year old graduate of Florida State University and her life was just beginning. She was found with possession of marijuana in a 2007 traffic stop, and in 2008 her apartment was searched and marijuana and four ecstasy tablets were found. She was given the ultimatum of going to prison or becoming a police informant. She did not receive proper training and during the sting operation, police officers lost track of her and the dealers caught on to the situation. Rachel was raped and executed with the gun she was supposed to purchase. Her body was recovered to days later. Laws were passed and a festival (Purple Hatter’s Ball) was set up in her memory. Her story isn’t the first of its kind. Can the United States keep defending all of these tragedies to keep a plant illegal? One of the main arguments against marijuana is that it is a gateway drug. While there is a positive correlation between people who use marijuana and people who use harder drugs, step into any science, social studies, or math class and one will learn that correlation does not always mean causation. I did a debate on this topic my junior year of high school and in my research I found a quote that stuck with me but I cannot find a source to anymore. The quote is, “There is a positive correlation between children who learn to ride a bike and the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. However, although all of the members learned to ride a bicycle at an early age, most people who learn to ride bikes do not grow up to join motorcycle gangs.” The analogy applies to the marijuana debate. To date there is no strong evidence in support of the argument saying that it truly is a gateway. With extensive research findings and actual patient accounts in favor of use of the drug, I don’t understand how it is still a lawful issue. If someone is on their deathbed or experiences severe agony and potentially life-threatening illnesses, how can they be denied the help that they require? The prohibition of marijuana in America is something that I am frustrated about every day and I sign petitions in favor it its legalization every opportunity I get. As the daughter of a man suffering from severe bipolar disorder, who has been told medical marijuana would help him but he cannot receive it because we live in Florida, I feel for the victims of the marijuana prohibition and ache for a change.