Many of the synthetic drugs on the street today were created in labs as researchers sought better and more effective drugs to treat a number of legitimate medical conditions. For example, cocaine was originally intended to treat narcolepsy while heroin was developed as chemists experimented with derivatives of the opium poppy, which include codeine and morphine, in creating local anesthetics, pain relievers, and cough suppressants.
There’s a long history of experimental substances and compounds finding their way onto the streets, becoming the objects of recreational drug users’ addictions. Today there are countless addictive substances to which individuals are physically and psychologically dependent, only a fraction of whom seek treatment to recover from their dependencies.
Of the numerous illicit substances that have been used for medicinal purposes, marijuana has what could arguably be considered the most extensive history in the medicinal field. Marijuana for medicinal use has been documented as far back as almost 5,000 years ago when Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung, who was also a pioneer in pharmacology, wrote a book detailing a number of treatment methods in 2737 BCE.
In Shen-Nung’s pharmacology writings, he wrote of the practical medical uses of cannabis and its diverse benefits, which included the treatment of gout and rheumatism, constipation, and even as a remedy for run-of-the-mill absent-mindedness. It’s even written that marijuana can be beneficial as a preventative treatment, preventing the development or arresting the progression of numerous ailments. In fact, marijuana—or, more accurately, cannabis—is one of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine.
However, medicinal use of marijuana isn’t relegated only to the pages of history. There are a number of conditions existing today from which millions of individuals are suffering and would benefit from the use of medication marijuana. The problem is that there are complicated laws surrounding the legality of marijuana—which has largely been criminalized—even when its use is medical or health-related. Despite some recent changes in state-level laws, federal policy has been largely prohibitive of using marijuana for medical purposes. The following will explore the
Despite some recent changes in state-level laws, federal policy has been largely prohibitive of using marijuana for medical purposes. The following will explore the current legal status of marijuana, including medical marijuana, and some of its most beneficial health-related and medical applications.
Current Laws and Policies on the Legalization of Weed
For decades and even centuries, marijuana has remained one of the most popular and widely used recreational drugs, both nationally as well as on a global scale. In fact, more than 80 million Americans have admitted to trying marijuana at least once in their lives. It would naturally follow that marijuana would be tied to increasing numbers of criminal cases over time, resulting in more and more laws and policies created as a direct response to the popularity of recreational marijuana use.
In all states and territories under the jurisdiction of the United States federal law, marijuana is classified as a controlled substance and its possession remains a criminal offense today. Some have pointed out a couple major problems with this. For one thing, marijuana users are typically non-violent people, especially compared to users of other street drugs.
Additionally, the United States spends billions of dollars as a direct result of the criminalization of marijuana, charging these non-violent offenders with their mostly non-violent crimes. Despite the federal-level criminalization of marijuana, a number of states have passed legislation that aims for the legalization of weed for individuals who are authorized to use it for medicinal purposes, which includes California, DC, Maryland, and Washington.
However, a number of states have taken this a step further, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use to something that’s punishable only on the same level as a parking ticket or minor traffic violation; this includes Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon.
In the past couple years, two states—Colorado and Washington—outright legalized recreational marijuana as a result of a popular vote, making it a taxable, sellable item in the same vein as alcohol and tobacco. There are still some kinks in the system, such as users shying away from buying recreational marijuana due to having to pay a higher tax for recreational marijuana than medicinal marijuana. However, many states have seen the potential tax gains and money saved in criminal justice for marijuana offenders to be incentive enough to consider the legalization of weed.
On the heels of the legalization train, Oregon, Alaska, and DC have since passed their own legislation that allowed the legalization of weed for recreational purposes with a number of other states—Massachusetts, California, Maine, and Hawaii to name just a few—have pending legislation that may do the same in more states over the coming months and years.
Medical Uses for Marijuana
The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance, which means that it carries a high potential for abuse while offering no legitimate therapeutic utility. This classification has reportedly made it difficult for researchers to do quality studies on the health uses of marijuana, but there have still been numerous studies on the use of marijuana as a treatment for numerous health conditions.
Surprisingly often, it’s been found that marijuana offers some level of relief or benefit to users who suffer from certain ailments. In addition to the low toxicity of marijuana, a major reason why many researchers continue to return to marijuana for therapeutic uses is due to the presence of a substance very similar to the active ingredient of marijuana—60 compounds known as cannabinoids—that is actually produced naturally by the body in order to modulate physical pain.
The primary cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) targets a receptor found in the human brain, nervous system, liver, kidney, and lungs, which alleviates the pain response as well as the response to various toxins and chemicals. A study published in Neurology found that marijuana was especially effective in treating neuropathic pain, which is caused by damaged nerves, in patients suffering from HIV.
Interestingly, medications that are specifically designed and used for the treatment of pain—opioids such as oxycodone and morphine—have proven to be ineffective at treating neuropathic pain while marijuana showed strong positive results. What’s more, marijuana has shown moderate and higher results in treating muscle spasms and cramps, nausea, insomnia, and even a number of neurological conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome and multiple sclerosis.
There have been a number of individuals, especially those suffering from HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for various types of cancer, who have attested to the efficacy of marijuana in providing relief from many of the symptoms that come with a number of different illnesses and treatments. As such, medical marijuana continues to be a strong subject for advocacy among a very vocal group that hopes for continued progress in the decriminalization and legalization of weed, especially for medical use.
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