America Needs Medical Marijuana

America Needs Medical Marijuana

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There is no doubt that alcohol is America’s most popular and prominent drug. The sale and distribution has been legal since its early development. However, along with the social gratification of alcohol comes many dangerous effects and consequences. In contrast, marijuana, which has less severe and damaging effects and many medicinally beneficial qualities, has been outlawed by the American government. Although the utilization of both substances may lead to very detrimental side effects, it is unjustifiable to sanction the legalization of alcohol while simultaneously prohibiting the use of marijuana and its potentially beneficial qualities.
Alcohol, one of the world’s most widely used and addictive drugs, has been displaying its harmful affects to American society for hundreds of years. Since the end of the Prohibition Era of the late 1920s, various groups (such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union) have been battling for legislation banning the manufacture, distribution, and sale of this dangerous, but legal, substance. Although alcohol is a popular, gratifying and social drug, it does have very negative impacts on the American nation. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 19,358 alcohol-induced deaths in the United States in the year 2000, not including motor vehicle fatalities (United States). The substance has also been linked to many violent street crimes. In 2002, “48% of unintentional firearm fatality victims whose blood was tested for alcohol, tested positive” (Alcohol. . .). Alcohol also has many severe long-term effects. It may also disorder one’s brain, nervous system, liver, heart and circulatory system, reproductive system, urinary system, and digestive system, making the consumption of the drug extremely detrimental to a user’s health (Effects. . .). The drug’s short-term effects, which include impairing coordination and judgment and potentially triggering temporary amnesia, give rise to equally dangerous implications.

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These short-term effects of alcohol consumption have been linked to the four leading causes of teenage deaths: drunken driving, homicides, suicides, and drowning (Effects. . .). Because the consumption of the drug has become so commonly accepted in American culture, these side effects and consequences are sometimes drastically undermined.
Another dangerous substance that has grown increasingly popular in the United States is marijuana. Containing several of the same destructive qualities as alcohol, this substance is harder to detect than the former. The main ingredient in cannabis, THC, elicits many of the substance’s harmful side effects. THC disrupts the chemistry of the immune system, limiting the body’s abilities to ward-off viruses and bacteria (Effects of Smoking). It disrupts hormone production, interfering with women’s menstruation cycles and lowering testosterone levels in males. Smoking marijuana, like consuming alcohol, can inhibit short-term memory and reduce coordination levels. The drug has become so strong and powerful that it may take up to twenty-four hours to completely be released from the body (Effects of Smoking). Although marijuana does not have as many health risks as alcohol, it has been proven that one marijuana cigarette has three times as much tar as one tobacco cigarette and almost five times as much carboxyhemoglobin, resulting in more carbon monoxide in a user’s blood (Marijuana. . .). Like many other drugs filtering through today’s society, cannabis usage brings with it very scary and harmful side effects.
Both the consumption and usage of alcohol and cannabis are detrimental to one’s health. However, in recent years, researchers have performed studies to determine which substance is more harmful to the human body. Records show that alcohol kills a thousand times more people per year than all other drugs combined (Comparing. . .). In addition, cannabis usage has yet to create a high death toll, while alcohol can instigate death by “alcohol poisoning, asphyxiation, cardiomyopathy, and cardiac infarct” (Comparing. . .). Reports have also indicated that alcohol has more devastating effects on pregnancy than marijuana. Mothers who consume alcohol during their pregnancy often bare children who suffer from defects such as facial abnormalities, deformed ribs and sternum, organ deformities, heart murmurs, a curved spine and hip dislocations, limited movement of joints, and kidney and urinary deficiencies (If. . .). Drinking alcohol during pregnancy may also lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), or permanent damage to the infant’s brain, commonly generating mental retardation (If. . .). Evidence of detrimental effects on pregnancy due to cannabis use is questionable and vague. Because it is a strong depressant, heavy alcohol consumption can cause violent and psychotic behavior. There is unstable evidence that cannabis may produce this behavior in people with a “predisposition of mental illness” (Comparing. . .). Alcohol, one of America’s legal and most popular drugs, carries with it much more significant consequences than marijuana. The rationality of the policies surrounding these two substances is questionable and, when evaluated clearly, appears very illogical. It seems like Americans are on the rise for changing the questionability of the legalization of marijuana. “The finding that 34% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana is notable in that pollsters have found a significant increase in the number of Americans favoring legalization” (Cauchon).
“In 1975, five states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine and Ohio -- removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of the weed. In 1976, Jimmy Carter, who during his campaign had advocated decriminalizing pot, was elected president” (Carlson). Although marijuana damages the body, the legalization of the substance may lead to very beneficial results for sick American citizens. Records of medicinal marijuana date as far back as the seventh century BC (History. . .). However, cannabis was not an ingredient in Western medicine until 60 AD. At that time, marijuana seeds were extremely common in Herbal medicine. In 1597, John Gerard recommended the cannabis medicine for “easing the pain of earache and for the treatment of jaundice.” Recent studies have proven that marijuana is a very reliable treatment for many of America’s common ailments. In 1978, a medical researcher in New Mexico tested the use of marijuana in curing vomiting and nausea, two very common side effects of cancer treatments (Zeese). With scarcely any side effects, the study showed that marijuana was “not only an effective antiemetic but also far superior to the best available conventional drug, Compazine, and clearly superior to the synthetic THC pill.” The study also concluded that more than ninety percent of the patients who received medicinal marijuana treatment received “significant or total relief from nausea and vomiting” (Zeese). Several other medicinal studies conducted in New York, Georgia, California, Michigan and Tennessee all achieved the same results (Zeese). Marijuana can also be very beneficial for HIV/AIDS patients. The drug improves appetite and forestalls the loss of lean muscle mass (Cohen). Marijuana is also believed to reduce the muscle pain and tremor caused by the disease Multiple Sclerosis. The drug may also help some diseased patients with bladder control (Possible. . .). Cannabis is also used in healing patients with the blinding illness Glaucoma, relieving pressure within the eye, and those with Epilepsy, preventing seizures in some patients (Possible. . .).
There have been several valiant attempts to create legislation allowing the distribution of medicinal marijuana. In November of 1996, California passed the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, a bill allowing doctors to distribute medicinal marijuana to terminally ill Californians (The Drug War). “Medical cannabis dispensaries” were built throughout California to distribute cannabis medicine to qualified patients. In 2000, a controversial debate in the Supreme Court arose over this law and the distribution of marijuana under the strict medicinal purposes. In US v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and Jeffrey Jones, the United States sued Jeffrey Jones and his “cannabis dispensary,” the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, which, the government argued, was in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. The court voted unanimously, directly citing the Controlled Substances Act: “marijuana has no medical benefits worthy of an exception outside the confines of a government-approved research project” (The Drug War).
     Alcohol may also provide some positive benefits, but these effects are not nearly as significant as the success medicinal marijuana has achieved over the years. Modern research shows that a moderate intake of alcohol, more specifically red wine, can greatly improve cardiovascular health by lowering LDL cholesterol levels. However, within the same year, it was proven that purple grape juice and non alcoholic red wine reap the same benefits as alcoholic red wine (A Glass. . .). More effective means of improving cardiovascular health range from eating healthy to exercising regularly. Red wine is not only an aid in cardiovascular health. One study found that the antioxidant resveratrol may inhibit tumor development. This antioxidant is also very prevalent in the skin of red grapes. Again, eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables will also provide the same curing benefits as one glass of red wine (A Glass. . .).
     In conclusion, several questions must be answered before evaluating the United States government’s policy on substance use. Why does the current legislation on drug usage ban marijuana but allow alcohol and its much more extensive list of damaging and harmful side effects that the substance entails? Is there really a logical argument behind this governmental decision?
It is not difficult to understand why some members of the government avoid the legalization of marijuana. Both California and Nevada, without much success, have made attempts at passing legislation to legalize the drug. The general population is ill informed about the potential benefits of the drug and many believe it is a gateway to more harmful illegal drugs. Perhaps the idea of physically smoking, commonly linked with cigarettes and cancer, worries the general population more than actually drinking a substance. Additionally, there are substantial profits being made by the alcohol industry and the influence of that industry’s lobbyists on our politicians cannot be overstated. That industry does not want the competition that the legalized sales of marijuana would bring. Alcohol is a very social drug, and has always been much more accepted by the American public. Nevertheless, it is still a very dangerous drug sanctioned by the government that has been destroying aspects of our society for years. To be sure, cases do show that one glass of red wine a day may prevent cardiovascular disease, but healthy habits such as eating right, dieting and exercising regularly will always achieve better results. However, it is still very illogical to legalize such a noxious substance such as alcohol while banning marijuana. Cannabis has fewer destructive qualities than alcohol and has many more beneficial effects. It has also been proven to have positive benefits for unhealthy Americans, and with cases such as the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative, it seems as though the government is taking small steps in attempting to ease the pain of the nation’s terminally ill citizens. There is a desperate need for greater choices in medications to treat a variety of ailments. Many of the available prescription drugs have serious significant side effects, and drugs that are effective in one person may not work at all for another. This is supposed to be a country that stands for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” How can that really be true when so many Americans are denied a simple, naturally grown herb to ease their pain or to improve the quality of their lives?

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