The Black Sheep of Schedule One Drugs

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Marijuana, though often associated with the deviants of society, is not only an essentially harmless drug, but also one that has a number of medicinal applications. From Glaucoma treatment, to relief from some of the symptoms from Multiple Sclerosis, cannabis sativa is a useful drug that can help people suffering from some of the worst kinds of pain. Unfortunately, the legislative environment of the United States has yet to fully embrace the benefits of marijuana, and as such has not fully legalized this wonder drug. Marijuana, though, should certainly be legalized because despite the fact that its uses might not be as prevalent as those of penicillin or morphine, the pain relieving effects of marijuana, the drug’s lack of toxicity, and the fact that there is little evidence that it serves as a gateway drug should be reasons sufficient for its legalization.

One of the most absurd things that people say about marijuana is that it has no applications in medicine, but this could not be farther from the truth. Simon Vozick-Levinson, in his article “Debunking The Myths”, states that not only has marijuana been used for years in “relieving chronic pain, nausea, glaucoma and more,” but that there is “fresh evidence that the active compounds in marijuana can actually kill cancer cells” (Vozick-Levinson 51). Another recent study found that in Canada, “a cannabis-derived oral spray called Sativex is approved to treat neuropathic pain in adults with MS” (Durand 21). On that note, many patients with MS feel that marijuana “relieves their spasticity” (A Note on Marijuana 4). This is quite profound, as there simply are not many drugs that can positively affect such a large range of ailments and still boast essentially no side effects, even with excessive use. To illustrate this concept, the difference between the effective does, a dose that gets a user high, and the lethal dose, a dose that kills the user, for heroin is very, very small—“about 10-15 times the amount that gets a user high” (Henderson, Narcotics). Conversely, Henderson states that the lethal does for marijuana is somewhere in the range of a metric ton (Henderson, Depressants). That there is research being done that proves marijuana, and other products that come from the cannabis plant, can both aid in pain reduction for patients, and actually help cancer patients, is only proof marijuana should indeed be legalized.

The medical applications of marijuana are quite vast, stretching across a number of different fields. For many years, “Glaucoma sufferers have smoked marijuana cigarettes to prevent blindness, and the drug has been used to restore appetite to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy” (Medical Use of Marijuana 129) as well. However, the benefits are much greater than simply these two applications. Marijuana can also be used to help those afflicted with AIDS gain weight (Grinspoon and Lewin). Historically, these two particular ailments have struggled to find remedies that combat their symptoms, not to mention drugs that run no risk of adverse side effects. However, a point that some might suggest is even more important than generating an appetite is marijuana’s unmatched ability to not only alleviate pain thoroughly, but to do so safely.

More reasons that validate the suggestion for making medical marijuana legal are those that concentrate on the subject of pain alleviation. As has already been mentioned above, many studies claim that marijuana can help patients with pain in their sufferings, whether it is cancer or some other congenital illness. But marijuana can be of further use to help reduce pain in more mild ailments as well. As early as the latter half of the 19th century, “cannabis was a well-regarded acute and preventative treatment for headache in the USA an UK” (Sun-Edelstein, Mauskop, and Mauskop 473). More recently however, a more scientific explanation has been given as to the reasons behind such use of marijuana, with one study finding “a small RCT90 showed that the synthetic cannabinoid 1’1’dimethylheptyl-Delta8-tetrahydrocannabinol-11-oic acid (CT3) was effective in reducing chronic neuropathic pain when compared with placebo”(Sun-Edelstein, Mauskop and Mauskop 473). Here, we have a drug that has, for the better part of the last few centuries, been used in all manner of medicinal application suddenly being outlawed for what appears to be no apparent reason. But with so few studies to prove the harmful effects of this drug, it only goes to show that indeed marijuana should be legalized.

The harmlessness of marijuana when compared to other drugs is still more evidence that its legalization is simply a matter of logic. Extensive marijuana smoking causes little more than a pronounced euphoric effect, but the same cannot be said for other drugs. Among the harmful effects of excessive alcohol consumption are “liver disease, neurological damage, sexual dysfunction, high blood pressure and even the potential for suffering a stroke” (Henderson, Depressants). It is additionally important to consider that alcohol is a legal drug. But never in the history of mankind has there been a recorded death of someone who overdosed on marijuana, or who had a stroke, or suffered liver disease, as a result of their smoking marijuana. It seems safe to assume then that the benefits of marijuana use far outweigh their purported, or rather their nonexistent, costs. As such, the legalization of this uniquely outfitted pain reliever, marijuana, should come to fruition as soon as legislators can allow.

Despite what many people say is a ‘gateway drug’ to harder, more dangerous drugs, there is little research to prove such statements. In fact, one 11-member panel of experts studying marijuana found that “there is no evidence that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ to harder drugs, or that it was addictive” (Ault). Another study into the ‘gateway effect’ of marijuana notes that rather than marijuana use as a determining factor, “the relationship between adolescent marijuana use and young adult illicit drug use is mediated primarily by common shared environmental factors” (Hewitt et al 504). This conclusion makes sense given the notion that, even though smoking marijuana may make one feel good or relaxed, the effects are nowhere near as euphoric as those associate with truly dangerous drugs like heroin or ecstasy. As such, its potential for truly psychological dependence infinitesimal.

Perhaps the most outrageous fact about the illegalization of marijuana is its classification as a schedule one drug in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. According to the act, in order to be classified as a schedule one substance, that substance must, “(A) have a high potential for abuse, (B) have no currently accepted medical utility, and (C) lack accepted safety for use of the drug” (21 USC). To give some context to this classification, the other drugs that are in this category include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. No one disputes the dangers of such dangerous drugs like heroin and LSD, but to claim that marijuana is on the same level as these other schedule one drugs is truly preposterous.

While the debate rages on about whether or not the purported health and economic benefits exceed the potential dangers of marijuana legalization, there is much evidence to support the overwhelming medicinal properties of the drug which should serve to tip that scale in the direction of legalization. Whether glaucoma patients or people with MS, the benefits of marijuana can no longer be overlooked. These reasons, in conjunction with the drug’s complete absence of medically harmful side effects, can only strengthen the argument for this drug to be rescheduled, and reconsidered.

Works Cited

"A Note On Marijuana." Inside MS 15.2 (1997): 4. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Ault, Alicia. "Institute Of Medicine Says Marijuana Has Benefits." Lancet 353.9158 (1999): 1077. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Durand, Marcella, and Nancy Holland. "Considering Cannabis." Inside MS 25.3 (2007): 56-57.Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Grinspoon, Lester, and Jack Lewin. "Should Americans Be Allowed To Smoke Marijuana As Medicine?." Health (Time Inc. Health) 11.2 (1997): 29. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Henderson, Deborah. ""Depressants"." Arizona State University. 21 Sept 2013. Address.

Henderson, Deborah. ""Narcotics"." Arizona State University. 29 Sept 2013. Address.

John K. Hewitt, et al. "Relationship Between Adolescent Marijuana Use And Young Adult Illicit Drug Use." Behavior Genetics 36.4 (2006): 498-506. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013

"Medical Use Of Marijuana." Supreme Court Debates 4.5 (2001): 129. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Sun-Edelstein, Christina, and Alexander Mauskop. "Alternative Headache Treatments: Nutraceuticals, Behavioral And Physical Treatments." Headache: The Journal Of Head & Face Pain 51.3 (2011): 469-483. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Vozick-Levinson, Simon. "Debunking The Myths." Rolling Stone1185 (2013): 51. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

"21 USC § 812 - Schedules of controlled substances." Cornell University Law School. N.p.. Web. 21 Oct 2013. <