The following blog post is by Family Council staff member Deborah Beuerman.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado, other states are rushing to enact their own marijuana laws. Most of them are pushing for legalizing “medicinal” marijuana. Several groups in Arkansas are trying to place marijuana proposals on the 2014 ballot.
What is the difference between “medical marijuana” and “recreational marijuana”? If medical marijuana helps sick people, is it compassionate to let them use it?
Marijuana is marijuana. There is no difference in the plant that is smoked for a “high” and that used as medicine. The marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa, is not medicine in our modern context, for several reasons.
Dosage. Dosage is not metered. Whether the flowers are smoked or crushed and added to food, there is no way to know how much “medicine” you are taking, and therefore, no real way to know what effect to expect.
The active components in the marijuana plant are chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Over 60 different cannabinoids have been identified, with THC and CBD being the primary active ones. The content of cannabinoids in each plant variety varies greatly, and there are hundreds of Cannabis varieties grown. How could you know what you are getting? Those who sell “medical” marijuana say you should try them until you find a variety or a mix of varieties you like.
Delivery. Another problem is the delivery system. Smoking is not healthy for anyone’s lungs. There is more tar and carcinogens in marijuana smoke than in tobacco smoke, and we’ve all heard the horror stories about the lungs of a tobacco smoker. There’s also a lot of unknown “junk” contained in a marijuana plant. Why would you want to fill your lungs with that? And again, you can’t know how much “medicine” you get.
Effects. The effects of marijuana on the body are numerous, particularly on the brain, and could pose several health risks to those using marijuana as medicine: impairment of thinking, problem-solving skills, judgment, and both short-term and long-term memory; reduced balance and coordination; increased risk of heart attack, and of chronic cough and respiratory infections; potential for hallucinations and withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, learning, doing complicated tasks, participating in athletics, and driving are affected.
Addiction. Using marijuana can also lead to addiction. Marijuana use can be particularly devastating in those who start young, with greatly increased probability of addiction and usage of other harmful drugs. Some studies indicate that there are irreversible changes in the brain of teens who smoke marijuana, leading to lifelong difficulties with memory, thinking, decision-making and everyday activities. Why would a reasoning person want to take all those risks?
Compassion? But what about compassion? Shouldn’t really sick people be able to take a drug that relieves their pain? The active components in marijuana, THC and CBD, have been shown in research to have potential for treating certain conditions. In fact, there are on the market now drugs containing synthetic THC used for relieving pain, combating nausea, and stimulating appetite. Anecdotal evidence has shown CBD oil to be effective in controlling some types of seizures in children. They ingest oil; there is no smoking. But the key is research—like all other medical drugs available in the U.S.—must be done before marketing any drug.
Researchers would determine specific dosages with a usable delivery system for treating specific illnesses or conditions, and there would be a specific, expected outcome. Use of the developed drug would be monitored by a doctor and would not be over-the-counter but available from a pharmacy by prescription.
With development, the active components of marijuana might be helpful drugs, but the marijuana plant itself is not medicine. The push to legalize “medical” marijuana is a front for making the marijuana plant readily available and legal to buy for any use.
After all, didn’t Colorado first make “medicinal” marijuana legal?