The arguments about legalizing medical marijuana rage on and, with such strength of feeling on both sides of the argument, it can be difficult to get a clear perspective. We believe that the only way to see the wood for the trees, or the weed for the smoke, is to be objective.
There is overwhelming evidence that cannabis relieves various medical conditions; unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, pain and spasm, as well as the side effects of some prescription medicines. It is fact: marijuana is less toxic to the system than many pharmaceuticals.
A fact that informs the opinion of much of the medical establishment is the paucity of good quality research on the use of medical marijuana. Doctors are trained to mistrust anything that hasn’t been fully researched but there is a glaring problem here: the cultivation and possession of marijuana is illegal. Legalize marijuana and the research becomes possible.
Then we come to the specter of addiction. One oft-quoted study (University of Arkansas 2001) found that withdrawal from marijuana in heavy users gave rise to symptoms similar to those of nicotine withdrawal? But how were the participants in that trial taking their cannabis? If, as is the norm, they were smoking it, then the chances are they were smoking it alongside tobacco. Is it any wonder that symptoms were similar to those of nicotine withdrawal?
Users of medical marijuana are rarely heavy users and they can avoid the nicotine syndrome by vaporizing their herb.
Many opponents to legalization of medical marijuana believe that to legalize marijuana will erode the drugs-are-dangerous message that we try to instill in our children, leading to widespread use of not only cannabis but truly dangerous drugs such as heroin. Yet there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary: in states where medical marijuana is legal, the figures for teen use of cannabis have either remained stable or have followed a downward trend.