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Would Marijuana Be OK…?



Would marijuana be OK by prescription if you didn't get high? Márcio Padilha College of Southern Idaho ADDS 201 – Goffin Fall/2009

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


The following paper has the purpose of exploring several issues pertaining to the medicinal use of marijuana in society; such as legality vs. illegality, facts and fantasies, the issue of legalization vs. decriminalization and the need for research, ultimately addressing whether it would be socially acceptable if medicinal use could be attained without the high.

Would Marijuana Be OK…?
Would Marijuana Be OK by Prescription If You Didn't Get High?


From legal to illegal: Rudolph J. Gerber’s Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics, asserts that, in a centuries-long legal spectrum, which has covered utter extremes, America’s first law on marijuana, dating from 1619 Virginia, required farmers to grow hemp. In such historical context, George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their lands. Up to circa 1900, pharmacies, in the United States, legally sold small packages of marijuana as a cure for migraines, rheumatism and insomnia; making the assumption that Jefferson may have written the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper, or that Betsy Ross may have made her first American flag of hemp fabric, not unrealistic in a social construct where hemp products were widely available; derivative proof of which is thereby asserted by the townships of West and East Hempfield, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania which acquired their names to honor their prodigious hemp productivity, an item further listed as an acceptable drug in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1850 to 1942, i.e. remaining listed for five years after it became legally banned. As the dynamics of the historical process evolved, the inbound diaspora caused by the 1910 Mexican Revolution caused Texas and California officials to claim that marijuana incited Mexicans to violent crimes, aroused a lust for blood and generated super human strength, further asserting that Mexicans supposedly rolled dried cannabis leaves into cigarettes and distributed this “killer weed” to unsuspecting schoolchildren. At a later stage, circa 1926 in the deep South, the campaign against the “marijuana menace” targeted foreigners, inferior races, sexual deviants and social misfits. Concomitant to that, the Temperance Movement was aggressively taking hold of the social collective consciousness which inadvertently diverted public attention from marijuana; thus

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


leading to its greater recreational use after the enactment of both the 18th Amendment and 1920 Volstad Act. In 1932, President Hoover appointed Harry J. Aslinger as head of the newly founded Federal Bureau of Narcotics; a position Aslinger would hold until 1962. Distrusting any public health approach to addiction treatments, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics claimed that Mexican’s and Black’s pot-incited promiscuity threatened the nation’s instability. In 1936, it further successfully incited xenophobic mass hysteria in the United States through propaganda movies such as Reefer Madness, Devil’s Harvest, Weed with its Roots in Hell, which alleged that marijuana use could reduce thousands of boys to “criminal insanity” and “sexual savagery”. Feeding off this social state of affairs, and as a part of broad legislative campaign to penalize all pot use, Aslinger issued nationwide public statement encouraging adoption of uniform state laws against marijuana which lead 27 states into adopting narcotics laws with partial but haphazard criminalization of cannabis. Lastly, by upholding the National Firearms Act, which prohibited the transfer of machine guns without a tax stamp, a stamp that the government would not issue, the United States Supreme Court provided, in 1937, a model later used to gag marijuana. Thus, wide-spreading the word that “most marijuana smokers are Negros, Hispanics, Filipinos and Entertainers…”, that “….their satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana usage…” and that “…this marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes”, Aslinger’s 1936 legislative campaign had laid the foundation for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which controlled weed via a stamp and a license transfer tax for which the government refused to issue either stamps or licenses; a legal hiatus which persists to this day, having since been ideologically reinforced, in the United States, by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Although marijuana has been illegal since 1937, the national attitude towards the drug menace has oscillated between tolerance with less rhetoric to intolerance with severe enforcement. World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War have all played different roles in

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


swing both government and people’s opinion on the issue. Over the past four decades, governmental policies regarding the use of marijuana have largely reflected the opinions of the occupants of the White House.

Medicinal Marijuana: Fact or Fantasy? In Leslie L. Iversen’s The Science of Marijuana, it is asserted that ancient medicinal texts, such as the Chinese, Hindu and Arab, which date as far back as 2800 BCE, recommend marijuana for the treatment of a vast array of conditions. Nevertheless, whereas highly contradictory in today’s society, this stance was, for instance, publicly defended by Prince Charles as he advised, in conflict with British Law, a multiple sclerosis patient to use marijuana to relieve her pain at the occasion of his visit to a British charity hospital on December 25, 1998 (Gerber, 2004). In a mixture of contradictions between legality and science, there is, nevertheless, some evidence that marijuana has some medicinal properties. Popular in folk medicine in Medieval Europe, the 1854 United States Pharmacopoeia defined marijuana as a “powerful narcotic, causing exhilaration, intoxication, delirious hallucinations, and, in its subsequent action, drowsiness and stupor, with little effect upon the circulation”. It further asserted marijuana as “a decided aphrodisiac” which “to increased appetite, and occasionally induced the cataleptic state”; being “preferably employed when opium would be contraindicated by its nauseating or constipating effects or its disposition to cause headache.” Although cannabis has over 4000 years of use in human medicine, it was not until very recent that have we had rigorous scientific evidence for either its safety or its effectiveness, except in a few isolated instances. Such lack of scientific evidence enables the possibility that the effects of homeopathic and herbal medicines, as well as various other alternative medicine approaches, are likely to involve the well-documented placebo effect, i.e. if patients believe that a treatment will benefit them, this belief and the optimism with which it instills them can have powerful effects on

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


the course of an illness, attesting, thus, more to the power of suggestion than the efficacy of the medicines. Nevertheless, science has recently supported THC and other cannabinoids as surprisingly effective in inhibiting the proliferation of a variety of human cancer cells lines in tissue culture experiments, including breast, prostate, colorectal, gastric, lung, uterus, pancreas and typhoid cancers. Ironically, chemotherapy-associated cancer, for which there was the earliest scientific evidence for beneficial effects of cannabis-based medicines, is now no longer seen as an area of pressing medical need in light of the development of other medicines. On a new front of scientific exploration, multiple sclerosis represents a promising target for cannabis-based medicines as anecdotal reports suggest that cannabis can relieve not only the muscle spasms and the pain they cause, but in some patients it may improve bladder control. In addition, there is an increasing body of evidence from experiments in animals that activation of the cannabinoid system in the central nervous system among other things reduces the sensitivity to pain, plausibly rendering it as an effective pain treatment. Whereas smoked marijuana was used for bronchial dilation in asthma treatment throughout the 1970’s, it has since been discontinued due to the development of new drugs. Yet, smoked marijuana and oral dronabinol have been increasingly used, where legal, as appetite stimulants to counter the loss of appetite and progressive involuntary weight loss of about 10% of body weight seen in AIDS patients who develop AIDS Wasting Syndrome. Lastly, the use of marijuana to treat mood and sleep disorders has had mixed results. Whereas in terms of mood disorders, some patients reported improvement and others found the psychic effects of the cannabinoids unpleasant and frightening, in terms of sleep disorders, patients experienced intoxication prior to sleep and some degree of hangover in the morning after repeated treatment with large doses of THC.

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


Legalization vs. Decriminalization and the Need for Research: David M. Fine’s Government Policy discourages Important Research into Marijuana asserts that, for several decades, researchers have sought to determine whether marijuana has legitimate medical uses and narcotics control agencies have discouraged them from finding out, thereby both inhibiting research and restricting access to the drug, an overall hindrance of social and scientific progress. The concept of medical marijuana has emerged out of the rise of recreational marijuana in the 1960’s. Therefore, whereas there has been some anecdotal evidence of medicinal uses, there is political fear that the decriminalization movement is indeed a Trojan Horse for a legalization movement and its subsequent promotion of marijuana as a legal recreational drug evokes uncertainties as to its long-term widespread societal effects in terms of a gateway drug social synergy; the summation of which impedes the very research which could ease such societal unrest. Nevertheless, contrary to federal law, and following California’s lead in becoming the country’s first state to allow marijuana for medical use, 34 states had passed some sort of marijuana legislation, which allowed for medical use and/or research by the late 1980’s. Notwithstanding, prescribing or recommending marijuana remains a violation of federal law and therefore any doctors who did so could be prosecuted and lose their license to prescribe all drugs regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency. Although since October 18, 2009, the Obama Administration has taken the stand of no longer enforcing the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 against persons who use marijuana for medicinal purposes in states where it is medicinally allowable. It must be noted, however, that this constitutes a change in approach rather than one in law; thus, a reversal in position make happen at any time without much effort and/or notice.

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


Disregarding of a 1988 favorable judicial opinion as to its decriminalization, the Drug Enforcement Agency refused to reclassify marijuana out of the Schedule I, i.e. a substance with high potential for abuse and no medical purpose.

Would Marijuana Be OK by Prescription If You Didn't Get High? Mark Robichaux’s Would Marijuana Be OK by Prescription If You Didn't Get High? addresses the critical issue of maximizing marijuana for medicinal purposes concomitant to avoiding the psychotropic effects which renders it a Schedule I substance. Hence, it forces society to reconsider its ideology. What is not permissible? Is it the substance? Is it the substance’s effects? Should the effects be nullified, does the substance become socially acceptable? Where does the social stigma begin? Where does it end? How aware of governmental control is society? Is it control?

Personal Opinion: Believing that socially engrained stigmas are detrimental to humankind, I have always found the issue regarding the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana to be one of the most bizarre matters societies face. Under the pretence it is a gateway drug, Gerber asserts that marijuana has been swept under the rug and into illegality and, in doing so, Fine conjectures that the development of all of its plausible pharmaceutical applications has been hindered. Nevertheless, as indicated by Iversen, the fundamental question as to its potential as a source of medicine does not culminate on the collective consciousness of the American people, or most of others for the matter being, as the issue is always swayed and shifted out of scientific scope by antiquated socio-legal views. I find it inadmissible that humankind, having evolved at the rate it has, in the year 2009, still amuses itself defending positions anchored in data that is centuries old; which have never been fully explored to the full extent of the currently available scientific potential. Stands as such have

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


always made me wonder the validity of all the education theories that address learning and intelligence. In a parallel thought, it deeply bothers that humankind at large sees nothing wrong in the fact that scientists have been able to come with Viagra prior to coming up with a cure for AIDS. I believe that substance abuse is a societal ill and, inasmuch as I would not be in favor of the legalization of any gateway drug into society, I feel that the matter of “Marijuana vs. Well-being of Society” is yet to be addressed to my satisfaction. In light of modern-day scientific development, this argument of the psychotropic properties of marijuana and its harmful effects on the social fabric could easily be laid to rest with the appropriate scientific support and funding, but should that issue be laid to rest, what would one be distracted with? Additionally, I further believe that education is the only readily available, yet tremendously underused, instrument for humankind to rid itself of its social evils. Legislating matters only make them punishable rather than non-occurring and soon the punitive machine becomes and industry in and of itself. So, yes, it would be ok if wouldn’t get you high.

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


Fine, D. M. (1999). Government policy discourages important research into medical marijuana. In W. Dudley, At Issue: Marijuana (pp. 59-66). San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc. Gerber, R. J. (2004). Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. Westoport: Praeger Publishers. Iversen, L. L. (2008). The Science of Marijuana. New York: Oxford University Press. Robichaux, M. (2001, 02 28). Would marijuana be OK by prescription if you didn't get high? Wall Street Journal , p. A1.

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


By Mark Robichaux. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern Edition). New York, N.Y.: Feb 28, 2001. p. A.1 After 10 years of searching, University of Mississippi Professor Mahmoud El Sohly thinks he has a new way to quiet opponents of marijuana as medicine: a pot suppository. Designed to ease post-chemotherapy nausea, among other conditions, its best feature may be what it doesn't do. "There is no high," says Dr. El Sohly. Whether the Food and Drug Administration ever will approve his drug, which he has tried out on animals and human subjects, is hard to predict, pending clinical trials sure to cost millions he doesn't yet have. He's trying to interest drug companies. For patients turning to marijuana for relief from a symptom such as nausea, the high may be an unwanted side effect. To the government, it's illegal substance abuse. So in labs around the world, researchers like Dr. El Sohly are attempting to create marijuana pills, aerosols, injections and sprays that don't create a buzz. Some are tweaking molecules, while others are in the greenhouse crossbreeding plants. What makes the task so tricky is that the same ingredient that appeals to pot smokers -tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC -- is what holds promise as a medicine. Of the 400 or so chemicals found in the hemp plant, more than 60 are so-called cannabinoids, and none is more psychoactive than THC. Some challengers in the race are already claiming victory. A tiny New York City firm called Atlantic Technology Ventures Inc. is waiting to unveil a synthetic compound called CT-3 -- claimed to be THC without the high. Sumner Burstein, a professor at the University of Massachusetts

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


department of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, developed the drug as a pain-reliever and says it is nonpsychoactive: "I took one myself -- no mental aberrations." At least four years of testing await the drug, which the company hopes to market one day as a "super-Tylenol." Prof. Audra Stinchcomb of the Albany College of Pharmacy in New York is testing in the lab a patch designed to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients. Key to this effort's success is the rate of "transdermal" intake of the drug -- too little and patients feel no effect; too much and they get giggly. She attaches synthetic-THC patches to pieces of skin left over from plastic surgeries to evaluate absorption. In southern England, three-year-old GW Pharmaceuticals is hybridizing cannabis plants to breed out psychoactive agents in some cases, to increase THC in others. The company, which has a unique license from the government of the United Kingdom, grows 50,000 plants, producing 15 tons of marijuana a year for medical research. "We have a perfect factory growing one cannabinoid or another," says founder and chairman Geoffrey Guy. While most other research involves extracting a single THC molecule from cannabis and modifying it, Dr. Guy hopes to use the pharmaceutical extracts of the entire plant. One way to reduce psychotropic effects, says Dr. Guy, would be to increase the content of other helpful cannabanoids besides THC, such as cannabidiol, or CBD, which seems to minimize the high. GW's first product, which could hit U.K. markets as a pain-reliever by 2003: a device the size of a mobile phone that allows a daily dose of a prescribed number of squirts under the tongue of cannabis extract, containing both CBD and THC. The dispenser won't allow extra squirts. "We have chaps [in tests] using heavy machinery . . . some are teaching," says Dr. Guy. "They aren't sitting in a corner high as a kite."

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


At London's Imperial College, researchers are testing a THC-based drug that circumvents the brain entirely -- delivered by a spinal injection. Though it is too early for human trials, researchers are hoping to find that THC derivatives are more effective than morphine for relieving pain from spinal-cord injuries. Individual scientists, academic labs and small drug firms are pushing the research hardest, largely because big drug companies have traditionally been leery of the cost and political problems associated with marketing marijuana as medicine. Also, because cannabis is a natural product in the public domain, it can't be patented. Today, the only prescription-based medical marijuana available in the U.S. is Marinol, a synthetic cousin of THC sold and marketed by Unimed Pharmaceuticals Inc. Though approved as a nausea drug in 1985, and as an appetite-stimulant for AIDS patients in 1992, it can induce a drug high. Sales today reach an estimated $20 million annually. Big companies are starting to get interested in the field. "We see them -- Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis -- all the time at the meetings of the society now," says Roger Pertwee, a professor at the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. and secretary of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, a group of medical and academic researchers. "They never came in the past." Spokesmen for all three companies said they wouldn't dispute that assertion but also wouldn't confirm that they have had people at meetings. Kate Robins of Pfizer Inc. said, "Our job is to cure diseases. We have 12,000 researchers. We leave no stone unturned." In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, made the strongest case to date for cannabis as a potentially effective treatment for nausea, AIDS-related appetite loss, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other ailments. Its compilation of studies, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base," concluded that cannabinoids have "potentially farreaching therapeutic applications."

Would Marijuana Be OK…?


Recent findings suggest that THC holds more potential as a painkiller than anyone ever guessed. Discoveries that the body produces its own cannabinoids that bind with receptors located in the brain and elsewhere lead scientists to believe THC could affect nerve impulses between cells in precise ways. "In war, some men lose limbs and they don't feel pain because the body can turn pain off," explains J. Michael Walker, a professor at Brown University and current president of the cannabis research society. New research suggests that "when you activate parts of the brain that turn pain off, it causes the release of cannabinoids. Can cannabinoids suppress pain pathways? It's a very exciting science question." Some scientists remain skeptical. "Anecdote is not evidence," declares Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funds research on addiction. "There is still very little controlled clinical research on cannabis that demonstrates medical benefit." Prof. Burstein, of the University of Massachusetts, says other professors often "get a big grin on their face" when he speaks about his marijuana research. "They ask, `Did you remember to bring the brownies?' " (See related letter: "Letters to the Editor: Let's Get High on Relieving Pain" -- WSJ March 7, 2001) Credit: Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal