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Medical Marijuana and Its Place in Society Today: a Study

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“Medical marijuana has been one of the most salient and contentious federalism battlegrounds of the past fifteen years”. This quote by Robert A. Mikos directly shows the dispute on marijuana law for the past several years. In today’s world, many perceive marijuana as a drug that ruins lives and corrupts the minds of teens. If you are someone who has tried the drug, you are going to be judged by your peers almost immediately. The general thought process you think of when you hear of someone who has tried the drug is generally demeaning. You think less of that person because they tried an illegal drug that has many negative side affects, not only mentally but also physically. The public has been fed negative information about marijuana via the media, doctors, and a wide array of television shows. Most people believe what they are told and shy away from asking questions about important topics such as marijuana. The use of marijuana is growing everyday and doctors and scientists are beginning to understand the plant more and more each day. The uses of marijuana are virtually limitless and doctors have begun to understand the plant’s biological makeup, which has the potential to help millions of Americans.

“Cannabis, Consciousness, and Healing” by Wendy Chapkins is an article that discusses the use of cannabis throughout the United States. She quotes doctors and professors who have studied the affect marijuana on individuals. Chapkins also discusses how the biology behind cannabis effects the drug’s legislation to become a legalized drug.

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“Federal drug policy defines marijuana as a prohibited Schedule 1 substance—a dangerous drug carrying a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use” (Chapkins 443). This quote is what is stated for United States federal law in regards to marijuana. The prohibition of marijuana can be seen as far back as 1619. As years past, stricter laws and harsher penalties for the use and sale of marijuana has tightened. When the U.S. government made marijuana illegal, the known properties of the drug were not known. Very little research had been conducted and the view on marijuana was extremely negative. Heavy use of the drug can lead to damaged brain cells and can cause permanent memory loss. Along with long-term affects, the short-term affects of marijuana use are significant. They include impaired motor skills, rapid heartbeat, loss of balance, increased hunger and many more. With these long-term and short-term side affects considered, it gave the federal government even more of a reason to create stricter laws. The federal government had “tunnel vision” when it came to the topic of marijuana and the questions society had about it. The government thought negatively of marijuana and did not make room for anything but negative views and reasons why marijuana should stay illegal. With society changing, technology was growing along side it as well.

Technology has played a significant role in understanding the vast uses of marijuana. Improved computers and lab equipment enable scientists to manipulate the drug to aid people rather than hurt them. With marijuana still regarded as an illegal drug under the federal government, it was extremely difficult for scientists to experiment with the drug. Today, some states such as Colorado and California have considered marijuana legal in regards to use and sale. Scientists are now able to conduct research more relaxed knowing they will not be apprehended by the federal government.

The need for other forms of marijuana is on the rise. Cancer patients who don’t want to actually smoke marijuana are using other forms of the drug such as edibles or extracts. Charlottes Web is a cannabis extract created by doctors to help lessen severe seizures experienced by a seven-year-old girl. The extract was administered under her tongue. The use of this cannabis reduced her seizures from two or three a day, to three or four a month. Chapkins says, “The first prescription drug composed entirely of botanical cannabis, Sativex, has already been approved in Canada and is working its way through the FDA approval process in the United States”. This quote is significant because it displays how cannabis and its biological makeup can be formed and molded into other methods of treatment. Technological advancements have aided scientists in creating new forms of the drug to help people throughout the United States. Traditional methods of the drug are still highly used and deliver the same amount of treatment for people who need it.

Patients, who need to use marijuana, traditionally smoke it. Although this form is far from the complex scientific form, the benefits are the same. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy typically use cannabis to lighten the effects of the chemo. Most patients going through that treatment experience nausea, pain, loss of appetite, and a wide array of others. The use of marijuana can help patients have a better quality of life. Chapkins says, “Rev. Sonny, for example, who uses marijuana to manage the effects of cancer chemotherapy, also found that it assisted him in confronting his own mortality and his relationship to God”. Cancer patients are not the only people who use marijuana as treatment. People who have arthritis, insomnia, or just pain in general all use marijuana as treatments for their ailments. With the growing use of marijuana, studies have found an increase use of the drug in college students.

With the stress and anxiety associated with college, it is easy to see an increase in cannabis use among college students. “Risk for Marijuana-Related Problems among College Students” written by Jeffrey S. Simons, Dan J. Neal, and Raluca M. Gaher is an article that discusses the growth of marijuana use we see throughout universities. The authors use data collected through research to argue their point. Surveys were conducted and the data they found is incorporated into their work.

College workload is no small task. Reading is heavily assigned and you have to manage your own time in order to study and succeed at the collegiate level. Many students have turned to marijuana as a way of relaxing. “Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. Approximately 46% of college students report having tried marijuana” (Simmons, Jeffery S., Dan J. Neal, and Raluca M. Gaher 41). Almost half of all students attending college in the United States have tried marijuana. That is a significant number. Most students who have tried it once, are more likely to try it a second time and maybe even a third time. Students use marijuana to mainly to relax and unwind after a stressful day or week. Some students are such heavy users of the drug that they use it to become more creative and write better. Scientists believe that the occasional use of marijuana has no significant long-term affects that they know of. College campuses are still strict about the possession of marijuana and the consequences are steep. My friend’s brother was caught with marijuana on his campus. The dean of the college almost kicked him out of the school because of this incident. Should colleges have the ability to enforce such strict guidelines when the use of marijuana has so many helpful benefits? Alcohol related crimes on college campuses are far more common than marijuana related crimes. However, the punishment for alcohol possession is much less in some universities. “Social normative variables frequently are associated with marijuana use” (Simmons, Jeffery S., Dan J. Neal, and Raluca M. Gaher 43). The growing use of cannabis in college has almost become a social norm. It seems as if everyone is using the drug and the negative effects of marijuana are little. One of my good friends back home attends a college for engineering. He has told me that he smoked cannabis almost everyday and last semester he maintained a 3.8 GPA. Although the consequences for possession of marijuana on college campuses are harsh, students still make that choice to use cannabis.

When conducting my field research, I interviewed my American Government professor, Dr. Rolfe Peterson. He is well versed in marijuana law and we discuss this highly debated topic almost every class. From my interview I found that he does not believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. Dr. Peterson stated, “If marijuana is a gateway drug then so is McDonalds French fries”. From the several questions I asked him, the most interesting answer I received was on the topic of government funding. Dr. Peterson believed that if cannabis was legalized, the American government should provide federal funding to scientists in order for them to conduct research. This scientific work could lead to a better understanding of how marijuana works in the human body and society as a whole could benefit from this research.

Marijuana has been a hotly debated topic for many years. With its legalization in some states, the discussion has never been more intense. Although it is up to each individual, many states are leaning towards legalization. The advancements in technology have led scientists to uncover more information and uses of cannabis. Patients who use medical marijuana need it in order to live a better quality of life. Cannabis helps thousands of people each day in the United States. New forms of marijuana are being developed to help people of all ages that suffer from diseases most medicine cannot treat.

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