Marijuana: from Reefer Madness to Push for Legalization

Mandy Crest Health Guide
  • Marijuana itself has long been a controversial subject. From the 1936 film Reefer Madness to today's push to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, marijuana continues to fascinate and mystify.

    A bill currently winding its way through the Minnesota legislative process, if passed, would allow doctors to prescribe two and a half ounces of marijuana to provide relief from symptoms such as spasticity, nausea, and pain.

    To date, 31 states have addressed the issue of medical marijuana, with varying and often confusing results. Thirteen states currently have laws on the books that offer protections for patients who possess medical marijuana with doctor's approval. It is unclear whether federal or state laws apply in individual circumstances, leaving those who choose to use medical marijuana vulnerable to prosecution.

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    Multiple sclerosis patient testimonials tout the benefits of marijuana in reliving symptoms, but the February 13, 2008 online edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, warns that “People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who smoke marijuana are more likely to have emotional and memory problems.” Study Author Anthony Feinstein, Mphil, PhD, of the University of Toronto, is quoted as saying, “This is the first study to show that smoking marijuana can have a harmful effect on the cognitive skills of people with MS.”

    Sativex (R)
    a cannabis-based drug, was approved for use in Canada in 2005 with mixed results. Some MS patients report relief from spasticity and pain. The drug is not approved for use in the United States, but studies indicate positive results.

    The matter is black and white if you believe that marijuana is a dangerous street drug offering no medical benefit. But listen to testimonials by people whose lives are tainted by constant pain and/or discomfort, and quality-of-life and end-of-life issues turn to shades of gray.

    I do not endorse the use of marijuana as a recreational drug under any circumstances. Nor do I believe that my own MS would be improved by its use. For me, the risk to cognitive function is not worth the potential benefit.

    However, I know enough about MS -- and about life -- to know that my condition could seriously deteriorate and move me to reconsider my position. I have no trouble envisioning the day when I might trade some cognitive function for temporary relief of constant pain.

    Quality-of-life is subjective. End-of-life legalities often result in inhumane suffering.

    Sometimes we are faced with options we find less than desirable, but face them we must. Who should sit in judgement of the chronically ill and the dying? One need only watch television for a short while to see a legally prescribed medication advertised with all manner of potential side effects up to and including death.

    If marijuana, in its common form or in a pill variation, can relieve suffering, should we treat it differently than any other medication commonly prescribed by physicians?

Published On: February 17, 2009