The debate over the pros and cons of medical marijuana has lingered about as a long as the cannabis plant has been in existence. It is estimated that the plant has been used for treatment purposes for close to 5,000 years in various countries and cultures worldwide. In the United States, trying to keep track of marijuana laws and regulations is much like watching a professional table tennis match: the ball never stops moving around the table.
Proponents of the legal use of cannabis for medicinal purposes claim that it can provide relief for those suffering from serious chronic conditions like glaucoma and the nausea that often accompanies chemotherapy treatments. States that have legalized medicinal marijuana use have up to 15 conditions that are considered appropriate for its use. Medical problems where cannabis is thought helpful for symptom relief include AIDS, migraines and Multiple Sclerosis cannabis indica.
Those who oppose the use of marijuana for therapeutic or medicinal reasons list several reasons. First and foremost, it is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal laws. Drugs classified as Schedule 1 include heroin and LSD and as such, are deemed to have no medical value. Opponents also believe that for every ailment that medical cannabis may aid, there are legal FDA approved products available that do the same.
Countless medical and scientific studies have been conducted on medical marijuana. Here again physicians and scientists are divided regarding whether or not this drug has true medical value. Many believe that cannabis should be available as an alternative to those suffering from serious medical issues who do not respond well to pharmaceutical options. On the con side, marijuana does contain a number of chemicals beyond THC and everyone is familiar with the dangers of smoking when it comes to cardiopulmonary issues.
More Americans seem to be amenable to legalizing medicinal marijuana. A random phone poll of 1,000 adults conducted in April 2010 by the Associated Press/CNBC showed 60% favoring legal possession when medically approved. Twelve percent were neutral and 28% opposed any type of legal pot possession. The Washington Post/ ABC News did a similar poll with the same number of respondents. The question was if doctors should or should not be permitted to prescribe marijuana for their patients. Only 18% opposed doctors writing prescriptions for cannabis while 81% believed they should be allowed to do so.
Recently, the federal Veterans Affairs Department issued a directive that surprised many. Service men and women who are treated at VA hospitals and outpatient facilities will be allowed to use medical marijuana in the 14 US states where it is currently legal. While the regulation does not give VA doctors authorization to prescribe the drug, it does allow clinics in the 14 states to continue the use of marijuana in the case of veterans who already were using it. While the issue continues to be hotly debated, it does appear that legalizing marijuana for some medical uses is quietly gaining support nationwide.