One of the arguments you hear in favor of marijuana these days is it’s “natural.”

The idea is if something is “natural,” then it must be also “safe.” Never mind that uranium, arsenic, and hemlock are all “natural.” Marijuana is supposed to be a “natural medicine.” Well, not so fast.

We have written before about how marijuana doesn’t really qualify as “medicine.” It hasn’t been approved by the FDA for medical use; marijuana’s potency varies from plant to plant, depending on growing conditions; dosage is difficult to manage; delivery methods for the drug are not always safe or uniform; and its effectiveness is difficult to predict.

In short, all the scientific standards that have made modern medicine the greatest in history–testing, approval, uniformity in manufacturing and dosing standards, and so on–are not part of the “medical marijuana” equation. Marijuana may be many things, but “medicine” simply is not one of them.

But what about “natural”? Is that a word that can describe marijuana?

The truth is the marijuana industry has cultivated countless strains and blends of marijuana; the website currently lists 1,066 marijuana varieties, and Wikipedia has an article containing a few dozen particularly popular cannabis strains; each marijuana variety, supposedly, has its own unique characteristics–for instance, different colors, flavors, chemical levels, uses, and so on.

Some members of marijuana industry claim these new, different varieties of marijuana are effective treating different medical conditions–for instance, that one type might be better at treating pain than another. Never mind that none of these claims have been vetted by qualified medical researchers.

Others are touted as providing a more powerful or longer-lasting “high” for recreational users. Many experts attest that some modern varieties of marijuana carry significantly higher THC levels–the primary active compound in marijuana–than plants did forty years ago.

Any way you look at it, growers have been meddling with the marijuana plant for quite some time, attempting to produce different results. In what sense is that “natural”?

Now, I suppose we could debate the definition of the word “natural,” but I think most people assume “natural” means something is unaltered or presented as it would occur in nature. The marijuana being sold in stores across the U.S. these days, however, is not that. Through different farming techniques, it has been cultivated into something you simply would not otherwise find in the wild.

We don’t call genetically-modified corn “natural.” We shouldn’t try to pass modified marijuana off as “natural” either. The plants may have grown in the ground, but that’s about it.

It would seem that “medical marijuana” is not medicine; it’s not harmless; and it’s not natural.

Photo Credit: “Cannabis Plant” by Cannabis Training University – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.