Medical Marijuana Abuse

Medical Marijuana Abuse

By Leslie Thompson

In recent years, the medicinal value of marijuana has largely been scrutinized and contested. Proponents of the drug argue that cannabis provides help for individuals with life-threatening illnesses; opponents contend that there isn’t enough medical evidence to prove that marijuana has any positive effects on patients, and that the drug could actually cause further complications and ailments. As the debate over medical marijuana continues, a new cause for concern has developed—are individuals using this new prescription drug just to get high?

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the most widely abused illicit drug in the United States, and it is currently listed as a Schedule I drug under the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Marijuana comes from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, and it is one of the oldest known psychoactive plants in the world—some approximate that it appeared as early as 2700 B.C. In the early years of its existence in the United States, the plant was cultivated and farmed, and its hemp was used in the production of rope and clothing.

During the 1800s, the drug was slowly introduced into the medical world and became a common ingredient in medicine. The early 1900s brought regulation of the drug, thus bringing an end to the legality of marijuana—until now. There are currently 14 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and a handful of others are considering the proposition.

Although medical research is still up for debate, studies suggest marijuana is helpful in treating illnesses such as nausea, glaucoma, migraines, and asthma. It can also be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and AIDS. If marijuana can bring pain relief to individuals in need, why does legalizing the drug still cause so much controversy? Well, as with any prescription drug, there runs the risk of individuals misusing it. Given how popular marijuana already is in America, abuse is likely.

When legalizing marijuana was first proposed, it was under the premise that the drug would be strongly regulated and it would be prescribed to patients with serious medical conditions. Fast-forward ten years and it has become apparent that patients are no longer using marijuana to relieve serious pain, but instead to get high. In California, where pot dispensaries or “potshops” are legal, it is quite common to see the waiting rooms filled with people with a variety of “painful” ailments who don’t appear to be sick at all. While under California law it is not illegal for a physician to prescribe marijuana, there is little discretion taken as to which patients are prescribed the drug versus those patients who really need it.

While supporters of legalizing marijuana argue the health benefits it has for patients, opponents are worried that by legalizing the drug, it opens the door for all narcotics to become legal. Legalization will also pose problems for law enforcement agencies that will be faced with the challenge of regulating the distribution and sale of marijuana. One final concern addressed by opponents is the social implications. Legalizing marijuana may lead teens to believe that marijuana is safe to use recreationally and the increased availability of the drug will make it easier to come by.

As more states weigh the options of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, it is safe to say the debate will continue. Several states are already hard at work tightening their medical-marijuana bill to avoid abuse in the future.

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