Weed is What You Need

Addie Frank

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Indeed, you should read about how weed is a need to help those succeed to impede…pain, nausea, and muscle rigidity. Most people probably wouldn’t have guessed those three words to be the end of that rhyme so what do those three side effects have to do with weed, otherwise known as marijuana? Two words: medical cannabis.

While recreational marijuana is only legal in four states (Colorado being the most well-known), medicinal marijuana is actually legal in nineteen states. That is almost half of the U.S.! Although the law in these nineteen states allows the use and consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the controversy over its actual benefits continues to push forward.

According to W.J. Maule, the issue with the use and consumption of medical marijuana is more about how it can harm the body through using it over a long period of time rather than about the help it can and does bring. Focusing on the harm it can produce overshadows the benefits, causing a loop of legality to occur in the political world.

With medical marijuana being illegal in most of the United States and used minimally in the states in which it is legal, case studies and research about its benefits are inhibited. However, on the other side, because there are not many case studies or much research out there showing how beneficial medical marijuana can be; changing political policy about medical marijuana cannot happen without the proof from such research. It is a never ending cycle unless political policy changes to allow more research or for studies to happen regardless of the law.

Medical marijuana grunge rubber stamp, vector illustration

The fight for the right to legally use medical marijuana has been going on since the 1970s. A man named Robert Randall was the first person to succeed in a legal case regarding the right to use cannabis as medication. Marijuana had been dubbed a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. This drug classification meant that any drugs under this title was deemed to have “no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” as stated according to Kevin B. Zeese. This classification still applies to this day.

Many organizations supporting the use of marijuana in a medical setting or even recreationally have fought against this classification and laws restricting the use of marijuana because with its restriction, research on this drug cannot be furthered.

However, thirty-three states in the United States in the years 1978-1982 did pass laws to allow marijuana to be used by seriously ill patients. Once this was done, the states had to pass the requirements of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse in order to actually have marijuana in the hands of the state. By 1984, seventeen states had done this and had active Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) programs. With this, states could move forward in investigations and research of marijuana.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive chemical in Cannabis sativa that is the “high” people are searching for when they smoke, eat, etc. this plant. THC is most effective in the body when smoked, and as said by Maule, it can be detected in the body immediately after smoking and at its highest peak in the body within 10 minutes.

How THC and other cannabinoids (other chemicals in cannabis) work in the body is that they bind to receptors in the central nervous system. The body actually produces naturally cannabinoids, but at low levels. The receptors for them are found in the parts of the brain where movement, stress response, advanced thinking, and memory are controlled. Pain perception and nausea/vomiting are also controlled by cannabinoid receptors in the body. By putting cannabis in the body (through any venue), the natural level of cannabinoids in the body rises drastically so receptors are loaded up, and the actions controlled by these receptors are affected.

When THC or other cannabinoids bind to these receptors, pain can be reduced, muscle spasms can be diminished, and other symptoms of varying illnesses can be alleviated. Illnesses or diseases such as Parkinson’s, HIV, or psychosis, and even the side effects that come with chemotherapy can all be helped through medical marijuana.

Cannabis as a legitimate medical treatment option for Parkinson’s disease, a progressive nerve degeneration disorder, was examined in a case study done by professionals from Rabin Medical Center and Tel Aviv University. Twenty-two patients with this disease were monitored after using/smoking cannabis to see if their symptoms were improved such as pain, motor symptoms, and muscle rigidity. The case proved that all three of these symptoms along with sleep were improved after smoking cannabis.

This case study is important for its findings, but must be looked at from afar due to some important restrictions it presented. A small group of subjects leads to variability in how useful marijuana actually can be in real life for symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease. Further, many of the symptoms measured in this study were patient identified symptoms. Patients reported their pain levels using the Unified Parking Disease Rating Scale so the results could be skewed based on what each patient feels is a lot of pain or a little bit of pain.

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Another case study conducted in California by the State of California Medical Marijuana Research Act showed positive findings for medical marijuana. Two trials were conducted with patients who had HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and neuropathic pain. They were given cannabis cigarettes with varying amounts of THC in them including ones that were placebos with no THC at all in them. The results showed reduction in pain (30% reduction in pain intensity). Interestingly enough, the medium-dose cannabis cigarettes had the same effect as the high-dose ones in reduction of pain.

On the opposite end, a specific case study on one patient presented a completely different picture of medical marijuana. This young man, named “Mr. Z”, had been in military service and was self-diagnosing marijuana for medical reasons. However, because he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the marijuana only heightened the symptoms of this condition. He suffered from hallucinations (hearing voices) and delusions (believing he was Jesus Christ). The marijuana had been used to relieve the pain he felt, but it caused psychosis to occur for “Mr. Z”.

The issue with using this case study as effective proof against medical marijuana is that other problems were present in the subject which caused the marijuana to produce adverse effects. So this case study lacks reliability for whether or not medical marijuana is bad to use.

So given all this information, should marijuana be legal for medical reasons or would it only encourage marijuana use for all? That’s up for debate, but weed may just be what is needed for pain reduction in chronic diseases and illnesses.

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