Stop Punishing the Sick The advanced stages of many illnesses and their treatments are often unbearable; intractable nausea and pain frequently accompany them. Medications prescribed, at times, cause more distress then the ailment in which they are intended to remedy.
Many patients suffering from such debilitating diseases as cancer, AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis have turned to a more natural source of pain reliever and choose to smoke marijuana. The American government has held a prohibition of marijuana for the past seventy years; this means the possession of marijuana is unlawful (Fratello, 721). Patients tormented by excruciating afflictions and their families have risked fines and jail time in the effort of relieving their discomfort.These patients should be able to utilize the treatment of their choice, free from the fear of persecution and without the stigma of being considered a criminal.
This may be possible with the pharmacological reclassification of the drug marijuana. Eight states so far have passed initiatives making it legal for physicians, in these states, to prescribe marijuana to seriously ill patients, California (with prop 215) and Arizona being the first in 1996 and Hawaii being the most recent, passing its bill in April 2000. This was a signal of progress in an area that has long been in need of reform. Within weeks after voters approved the propositions in California and Arizona protecting doctors and patients from persecution for prescribing medical marijuana, the federal government stepped in.
Attorney General Janet Reno threatened that any physician who prescribed marijuana to patients could have the privilege of writing prescriptions revoked and be denied Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.President Clinton asserted that doctors would be committing a federal offence and be open to fines and possibly imprisonment (Kassirer, 366). According to a poll commissioned by the American Civil Liberties Union in 1998 79% of the American public said they thought it “would be a good idea to legalize marijuana to relieve pain and for other medical uses if prescribed by a doctor.
” (Glasser, ACLU) It is wrong for the government to counteract a bill that is so overwhelmingly supported by society. The government has long contended that marijuana has adverse long-term effects on organs in the body and that it is highly addictive. For many patients employing marijuana as alleviation to their distress, this is not applicable because most of the diseases being treated are fatal. The person would most likely have passed on when the negative effects are said to show up.It should not be too concerning also for those patients employing marijuana for relief from a nonfatal impairment such as glaucoma or arthritis. The claim that marijuana kills brain cells and is harmful to body organs has been traced back to a study conducted in 1970 where scientists continuously exposed Rhesus Monkeys to high concentrations of marijuana smoke for six months. The study was found to have many methodological errors. A repeat study conducted by the National Center for Toxicology Research in 1991, again using Rhesus Monkeys, failed to turn up any marijuana related brain damage at all (Fratello, 721).
These claims constitute false drug war rhetoric used as scare tactics.Drugs are classified into five degrees, ranging from highly dangerous drugs in Schedule I to over the counter medications and vitamins in Schedule IV. Schedule I drugs are defined by the Drug enforcement Administration as “unsafe, highly subject to abuse and possessing no medical value”(Schleichert, 54). These drugs include Heroin, Cocaine and marijuana. Schedule II drugs are considered to be potentially addictive but with some accepted medical value, these drugs are available by prescription. It seems hypocritical to classify morphine and Taxifimil, which carry such negative side effects as vomiting, dependency and withdrawals, as a Schedule II drug while leaving marijuana as a Schedule I drug.There is also a risk of death associated with taking high doses of such drugs as Morphine.
There is no such risk associated with smoking marijuana. Dr Jerome P. Kassirer from the New England Journal of Medicine proposes a change in laws in the fallowing: “The government should change marijuanas status from that of a Schedule I drug to that of a Schedule II drug and regulate it accordingly. To ensure proper distribution and use, the government should declare itself the only agency sanctioned to provide the marijuana.I believe that such a change in policy would have no adverse effects. The argument that it would be a signal to the young that “marijuana is OK” is, I believe, specious.”(366) This is a practical proposition, although pharmacies would have to be involved in relegating the marijuana. Also, just as children know that it is inappropriate and dangerous at times to take another persons prescription pills, they would also be taught that marijuana is by prescription and only for therapeutic purposes.
A main concern of opponents to medical marijuana is the belief that it is a gateway drug. Some are claiming a slippery slope will occur.Some believe that if marijuana is legalized for medical use then the public will argue for full legalization of the drug or maybe medical cocaine could be next.
According to the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), a young marijuana smoker supposedly has a 85 times higher chance of going on to try harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine then that of a non smoker. This figure is deceiving as shown by Lynn Zimmer and John Morgan, authors of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts, “To obtain the 85 times risk factor, CASA divided the proportion of marijuana users who have ever tried cocaine (17%) by the proportion of cocaine users who have ever tried marijuana (0.2%). The risk factor is not high because so many marijuana users experiment with cocaine but because very few people try cocaine without first trying marijuana (24).” This shows that the government is stacking the deck in the favor of the governments position. If marijuana is legalized for medical purposes it does not show a decline in the values and morals of the government or the public.
It is an act of clemency to the patient and a safer alternative to many of the medications being prescribed today.A few physicians will have the courage to stand up to the governments misguided ideology, while most will likely remain compliant to the governments political correctness. Eventually the courts will have to decide between compassion and the rights of those knocking on deaths door and the principles of bureaucrats whose decisions are based on false claims and deceptive propaganda. Our government is spending too much money fighting a battle that contrasts the interest of society.
The existing laws give cancer and AIDS patients little choice but to live like outlaws in the attempt to dull the pain they suffer. These patients are not deviant people who live on the fringes of society. If marijuana is reclassified as a Schedule II drug it would be available for prescription by a physician while still remaining restricted to the public and still be considered potentially addictive. The purpose of pain medications is to numb the pain, if we have something, such as marijuana, that does this effectively and with little side effects we should not let legal discourse prevent the use of it.
Reform is needed to make marijuana an acceptable medication.Fratello, Dave. “Should the Medical Use of Marijuana be Decriminalized”. CQ Researcher. 9. (1999) 721-723 Glasser, Ira.”Why Marijuana Reform Laws Should Matter To You.
” Members Bulletin. 1998. 8 May 2000. *http://www.aclu.org/library/spring98.
html* Kassirer, Jerome P. “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana.” New England Journal of Medicine. 336. (1998): 366-368 Russell Connelly, Elizabeth. Through a Glass Darkly, the Psychological Effects of Marijuana and Hashish.Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers: 1998.
Schleichert, Elizabeth. The Drug Library: Marijuana. New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 1996.
Bibliography Fratello, Dave. “Should the Medical Use of Marijuana be Decriminalized”.CQ Researcher. 9. (1999) 721-723 Glasser, Ira. “Why Marijuana Reform Laws Should Matter To You.
” Members Bulletin. 1998.8 May 2000. Kassirer, Jerome P. “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana.” New England Journal of Medicine. 336.
(1998): 366-368 Russell Connelly, Elizabeth. Through a Glass Darkly, the Psychological Effects of Marijuana and Hashish. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers: 1998.Schleichert, Elizabeth. The Drug Library: Marijuana.
New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, Inc, 1996.