Wednesday, December 12, 2007

About Our Blog

Introduction: Medicinal marijuana elicits a wide variety of reactions, reflective of the controversy surrounding it. Scientific data proving effectiveness is debatable, and some states are convinced that medicinal marijuana should be an option, while others make no distinction between illegal marijuana use and medicinal marijuana. The U.S. history of medicinal marijuana is full of tensions between states and the federal government, and people caught by the federal government in states that allow medicinal marijuana are subject to full prosecution, raising questions about the autonomy of states versus the federal government. Some people are worried that by allowing medicinal marijuana, it opens the gateway for the legalization of all marijuana use, which is what they're really against. For some, the costs of legalizing medicinal marijuana aren't worth the benefits, which aren't very well known; personal accounts of reduced pain from marijuana don't qualify as conclusive evidence, and it's very hard to do a wide-scale controlled experiment with an illegal substance. Information conflicts down to the very basic facts of the benefits of medicinal marijuana on certain symptoms, so it's important to know the biases of the sources.

Purpose: The purpose of this blog is to gather information of medicinal marijuana use by documenting the potential uses, history and legal controversy surrounding the topic. It may be obvious, but we’ve drawn our own conclusions after reading these articles. Each comes from a reputable source and contains what each considers to be accurate information. As you read this blog, realize that our critiques of articles are biased, but hopefully there is enough information for you to draw your own conclusions about the legalization of medicinal marijuana.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Final Summary

Marijuana has been used for medicinal purposes for over four thousand years. Although the biological effects weren't known back then, it simply was a cure because it made people feel better. It was used as a medicine in the United States until 1937 when a new tax fee led to its discontinued use. In 1972, marijuana was categorized as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act meaning that the government considered marijuana to have “no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States”. The changing public sentiment, viewing marijuana from a beneficial medicine to a destructive drug, led to many of the policies that restricted its use. The safety and efficacy of medicinal marijuana is still controversial because of those policies that restrict research. By making medicinal marijuana illegal, rumors, conspiracy theories and just plain false scientific facts have merit, because the public doesn't know what the truth is. In an attempt to stop medicinal marijuana, the federal government's prohibitive actions have fueled confusion, which is a good atmosphere for public deception by biased organizations.

However, science has tried to put an end to this confusion: Over the years and especially in the last decade, the list of potential therapeutic uses of marijuana has been growing. Medical marijuana can be used to treat refractory neurological symptoms, pain associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) or spinal cord injury, chronic neuralgic pain, AIDS-related anorexia, HIV medication induced nausea and vomiting, Crohn’s disease, and Tourette's syndrome. Other palliative effects include insomnia relief, mood elevation, appetite stimulation, and analgesia. Beneficial effects of marijuana have been reported for cancer-associated anorexia, delayed chemo or radiotherapy induced nausea, and vomiting. Cannabinoids have been shown to not only protect the brain but also prevent the normal inflammatory response caused by Alzheimer’s disease. With emerging facts like these, it’s harder for sources doubting the medical effect of marijuana to gain support.

The results of these studies have led to drugs including the active products in medicinal marijuana. In the US, there are only two FDA-approved medicinal cannabis products available, Marinol and Cesamet. The Investigative New Drug Application of a third medicinal cannabis product Sativex, used to treat pain and sleep disorders, was accepted in April 2006. Even with the approval of cannabis-containing drugs, the federal court has maintained the position of denying marijuana for medicinal use. In June 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that federal laws against marijuana, including its medical use, are valid. There is ample dissension with that ruling: currently, twelve states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Perhaps under a less conservative government, policies will change to catch up to the progressive environment of the United States—it's very hard to justify why medicinal marijuana is federally illegal, when states allow it and developed drugs show the efficacy of marijuana as a medicine.

The core question surrounding this blog is: Should marijuana be a medical option? If it wasn't clear already, we think that it should be. Numerous articles support its efficacy as a potential therapeutic drug, and many of the sentiments against medicinal marijuana come from the fear that marijuana is a destructive, illegal substance. Marijuana shouldn't be feared, it should be understood. By disregarding its use for medicinal therapy because of its historical implications, for example viewing it as a gateway drug to more addictive substances, many sick people are denied access to something that could drastically improve their quality of life. Marijuana can be used medically to reduce the pain and suffering associated with many debilitating diseases that afflict mankind, such as HIV, pain, insomnia, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. If both the physician and patient agree that marijuana can be a treatment for certain diseases and conditions, it should be an available treatment option. Many physicians believe that marijuana is the best available treatment for some of their patients. In a November 2003 study, 75% of those surveyed said they would favor use of marijuana under a doctor's prescription. We're not advocating the legalization of all marijuana, which would be a more controversial topic, but rather arguing that those with seriously debilitating diseases shouldn't be punished through suffering because of our, somewhat irrational fear, that the nation will have a bigger drug problem. The future for medicinal marijuana is looking bright—with so many states in favor of it, and upcoming elections, it may be federally legalized under a less conservative government. Legalization would help the drug trafficking situation, supplying a safe and reliable source of marijuana to those who need it, and competing with the medicinal marijuana portion of illegal drug business. Hopefully, word will get out to those people afflicted with the terrible aforementioned diseases that medicinal marijuana can help, and they'll be able to obtain it to relieve their suffering.

Student Knowledge/Opinion about Medical Marijuana:

In our addition to our blog, we decided to go out and get a sense for what the students at Brown knew about medical marijuana and how they felt about it.

Each student was asked the following four questions:

1. What do you know about medical marijuana?

2. What is your opinion on the use of marijuana as medical therapy?

3. Is the use of medical marijuana legal in the state of Rhode Island?

4. Would you use legal medical marijuana if you needed it?