Legalizing marijuana for its health benefits

In 2014, the door to legalizing marijuana in the US was opened, with the first ever midterm elections held in Washington DC and Colorado. A voter-passed ballot initiative, was pushed through, allowing for the possession and consumption of marijuana among adults. These two states invigorated others like Oregon and Alaska to follow the movement. Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses or symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes. In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use in the US.

Survey stats

The new poll conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago shows an elevated 61% of those surveyed agreed, marijuana should be legalized for adults over the age of 21.However, there were a few important caveats mentioned. 43% believed there should be a limitation on the quantity available for purchase, 24% believed a doctor’s recommendation should be necessary and 33% felt there should be no restrictions attached. Today, 23 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted laws that allow people to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Two of those states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat a disease or symptom. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form.

Chemical components of medical marijuana

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol(CBD).THC increases appetite and reduces nausea. The THC-based medications also help decrease pain, inflammation (swelling and redness), and muscle control problems.CBD is a cannabinoid that does not affect the mind or behavior. It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions. Two FDA-approved drugs, dronabinol and nabilone, contain THC. They treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and increase appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS. Cannabis is also often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers.

It is upon this that president Obama signed into law two budget bills that prevent the Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws. He showed the courage to hold the Department of Justice back and to allow the states to implement their new marijuana laws without federal interference.

However, the legalization of cannabis in the different states in the US has caused many critics to worry that its use would rise especially among teenagers. According to research carried out by Dr Deborah Hasin, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University medical Center in New York, and her colleagues. The findings from 24 years of data from more than one million adolescents in the 48 contiguous states did not substantiate those fears. The use of cannabis by adolescents was already higher in the states that had opted for medical legalization. But the change in the law did not lead to a jump in numbers. Among the youngest students surveyed, the 8th graders, marijuana use actually dropped.

A step in the right direction

Last year, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) received a recommendation from FDA about whether to move marijuana out of its current status as a Schedule I substance. Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is the most restrictive category, one that is supposed to be reserved for drugs with no medical value.

Moving marijuana out of Schedule I (or, removing it from the CSA altogether, like alcohol and tobacco) would have a number of effects. Because of its medical value, removing marijuana from schedule one will make scientific research easier. Current laws and regulations prevent the department of Health and Human services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy from fairly evaluating Schedule I drugs. Reclassification would allow the government to examine and communicate about marijuana in a way that prioritizes science.

Over the years, public perception has gone through a massive flip which has enabled the vote towards the legalization of marijuana. Once voters in other states realize that the sky does not fall upon legalization, they’ll probably be more inclined to vote in support. NIH-funded and other researchers are continuing to explore the possible uses of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids for medical treatment. The legalization of cannabis is a hope for a healthy living in the US.

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