Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Why Not? A Case for Legalization of Medical Marijuana

I was browsing the New York Times tonight when I came across another article on research for medical marijuana. And like so many other articles I've read, it was about the government turning down a university's, in this case UMASS's, request to do research on the plant. I've posted on this issue before, but I think its time to visit it anew.

I spent five years working as a pharmacy technician, both in retail and at a short-term rehabilitation (not substance-abuse) facility. There are plenty of drugs on the market that can be harmful to patients, and I'm not just talking about when they are taken in excessive amounts. While I'm not claiming to be a doctor, or even a pharmacist, I witnessed patients having to be kept sitting up for half and hour after certain medications were given to keep the drug from burning holes in their esophagus. And how about the heart risks associated with Viagra use, I don't see the FDA ripping that off of the market. So, my question is why aren't the benefits of marijuana being studied and the drug widely prescribed to those who could really use it for pain management? I have a hard time believing that marijuana is somehow more toxic than Percocet, Hydrocodone, or Morphine.

I have a couple of hypotheses on this subject. First, marijuana has a social history, connected to the peace movement of the sixties and "hippies". The government may have an issue endorsing a drug that was associated with a movement so anti-government. Second, how does the government overturn years of condemning marijuana as a "gateway drug" and educating people on its evils to turn it into something that is prescribed for cancer patients. We all know how easily the current administration admits to its mistakes.

Medical discoveries often come with risks. I do not want to endorse haphazard testing of drugs on people in the name of science. But I think its time for the FDA to get over the stigma they've placed on marijuana. If I was suffering from cancer, I would want to have every option for pain management available, regardless of its social history.


At 1:32 PM, Blogger Erin said...

I was thinking about this when reading the Times today too. The editorial "This is Your Country on Drugs," by Carl Elliott and then also the article on UMASS got me thinking. The relationship between the "War on Drugs" and the constant inundation of pharmaceutical industry commercials telling us about the drugs that will solve our problems (as long we are fine with the potential side effects that could put us in bed for days, or maybe cause a stroke) needs better understood. I read somewhere (which I now cannot recall so don't quote me) that almost half of Americans are on a daily regiment of perscription medication.

And you mentioned social history(!) of marijuana - I think that is exactly where we should start.

Does anyone know of a good source on the history of marijuana? This is so timely; it would make a great project for someone interested in the medical industry and legitimate knowledge and uses of knowledge for health and the political economy.


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