In 1936 when Marijuana was made illegal it was considered a medicine in good standing with the American Medical Association. At the time Marijuana could be found in twenty eight different medical products and countless other consumer products. On November 5th, 1996 California and Arizona passed propositions allowing the return of medicinal Marijuana use.
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The campaign in 1936 to make Marijuana an illegal substance was championed by two large companies, Dupont Chemicals and Hearst Newspapers, that gained financially by having Marijuana banned. For Hearst Newspapers it was to protect the investment that they had just made buying a large amount of paper trees. Marijuana can produce about 4 times the amount of paper per acre than trees, and twice as many fibers per acre than cotton. (Hempnet 1) Hearst was well aware of this and moved to ban Marijuana. Marijuana costs little to grow and can be made into cloth, canvas, and other high quality textiles. The use of Marijuana for textile production would have seriously hurt Dupont who had invested heavily in both paper production and the use of cotton. In 1936 Dupont joined Hearst and using scare tactics and effective lobbying were able to ban the growth, sale, and use of Marijuana.
Besides denying the public of the use of Marijuana as a textile, food source, and alternative energy source, these large companies selfishly robbed many sick people of a drug that can help them. Marijuana can be used to combat glaucoma, epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, back pain, asthma, rheumatism, arthritis, migraines, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and promotes appetite in some cancer and AIDS patients. Drugs like morphine, valium, lithium, and codeine are regularly given to patients and are far more addictive, having many more negative affects than Marijuana. Marijuana “has little effect on major physiological functions. There is no known case of a lethal overdose; on the basis of animal models, the ratio of lethal to effective dose is estimated at 40,000 to 1.” (Bakalar and Grinspoon 1875) “Marijuana, like aspirin, a substance known to be unusually safe and to have enormous potential health benefits. … In fact in a 1990 survey, 44% of oncologist said they had suggested that a patient smoke marijuana for relief of nausea induced by chemotherapy.” (Bakalar and Grinspoon 1875) And many times it only takes one or two puffs off a joint to calm the patient and relieve their nausea and help increase their appetite. (Silverberg 1) Californian and Arizona voters finally acknowledge the benefits of Marijuana and acted to change the situation. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration maintains there is no medical evidence that smoking marijuana has ever helped anyone, but it is difficult to dismiss the testimony from many seriously ill patients and their doctors that marijuana can ease pain, reduce the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, stimulate the appetites of AIDS patients who are wasting away, and lower the pressure within the eyes of glaucoma victims. ” The traditional use of Cannabis as an analgesic, anti-asthmatic, and anti-rheumatic drug is well established. A British study also suggests that cultivation of Cannabis plants rich in Cannabidiol (CBD) and other phenolic substances would be useful not only as fiber producing plants but also for medicinal purposes in the treatment of certain inflammatory disorders. CBD was found to be more effective than aspirin as an anti-inflammatory agent.” (Evans 361-371) The Food and Drug Administration has approved a synthetic version of THC, a main ingredient of marijuana, that can help in such cases, but many patients complain that it is a poor substitute and is much more expensive. The alternative choices to smoking marijuana, and there are a couple, but mainly pills are what’s on the market; they are suppose to have the same therapeutic effects that so many suffering patients say they feel when they smoke marijuana. The leading capsule on the market is Dronabinol; it’s main agent is Cannabidiol. “In a Brazilian study of 8 Epileptic patients receiving Cannabidiol, (CBD), 4 were free of convulsions, 3 had partial improvement, and 1 was unchanged.” (Cunha 176) The only problem with the pill is that it has to be digested, and for someone who is suffering from nausea it is virtually impossible to keep the capsule down. “Because it’s a pill, and therefore slower acting, people have trouble adjusting the dosage; they often find themselves taking too much. It also seems to cause high levels of anxiety and depression” (Brookhiser 27) Unfortunately no method other then smoking has seemed to help so many with the least complications. What is needed now is a more thorough effort to test the claims from reputable sources that marijuana may be a compassionate means of relieving suffering. Many believe that drug enforcement authorities have instead cut back on research out of fear that it would become impossible to limit marijuana use to those who need it medically. The fears are understandable, especially given the rising use of marijuana among teenagers today. But it ought to be possible to regulate marijuana as a prescription drug if it is found to be of legitimate benefit for sick people.
State initiatives are a clumsy way to set policy. The California proposition, for example, is so vaguely written that it could lead to wholesale distribution of marijuana well beyond the medical scope intended by those who voted for it. It says nothing about withholding marijuana from young people or from those operating dangerous equipment. It also suggests that a simple oral recommendation from any doctor would suffice. That loose provision, designed to get around Federal laws that bar doctors from prescribing an illegal substance, makes abuse of the new law inevitable. The Arizona law, by contrast, requires that marijuana be prescribed in writing by two doctors. But that measure is also written too broadly. It says that many other drugs, not simply marijuana, may be prescribed if permission from two doctors is obtained. Supporters of the California measure did their cause no good by immediately lighting up marijuana joints after it passed this last year and proclaiming that a legitimate medicinal use would include smoking a joint to relieve stress. Dennis Peron, originator of the California initiative, said afterward he believes all marijuana use is medical — except for kids. These actions made it obvious that the goal of at least some supporters is to get marijuana legalized outright, a proposition that opinion polls indicate most Americans reject.
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Parents have legitimate concerns about the increase in marijuana use among teenagers. Many who used marijuana a generation ago are struggling over what to tell their children, but they need to realize that today’s marijuana is more potent than the version they smoked thanks to the invention of hydroponics; a self-monitoring greenhouse setup intentionally to help cultivate marijuana. It waters itself, adjust the temperature, and optimize the conditions causing THC levels to drastically increase,
and even cause crystallization of the plant because of its high potency. Testing has shown the drug to be far more dangerous to young people than was known in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It can be particularly harmful to the growth and development of teenagers. California’s Attorney General, Daniel Lungren, has ordered state law enforcement officials to interpret the law’s language narrowly and require proof from those arrested that marijuana is being used medically.
The Clinton Administration announced an aggressive campaign to combat the state propositions, including criminal prosecution of doctors who prescribe marijuana. That hard line makes sense for now; if the Government refuses to investigate carefully the claims about medical use of marijuana, it will only spur voters in other states to take the issue into their own hands. It is a shame that a plant that can do so much good, has to be blacklisted because of misrepresentation, and the ignorance by the general public of just how many uses and advantages marijuana can bring man. From its industrial hemp, to its medicinal relief this plant has barely scratched the surface and has hardly been used to its full potential. As long as the U.S has narrow-minded politicians marijuana will never have a real shot to prove whether it can be a wonder drug/textile that many informed, rational persons envision it to be.
Bakalar, James B., and Grinspoon, Lester. “Marijuana as Medicine: A Plea for Reconsideration.” The Journal of the American Medical Association 273 (1995) : 1875.
Brookhiser, Richard. “Pot luck: Any sick serson who wants to use marijuana to help himself has to break the law.” National Review 11 Nov 1996 : 27-28.
Cunha, J.M. “Chronic Administration of Cannabidiol to Healthy Volunteers and Epileptic Patients.” Pharmacology 21 (1980) : 175-185.
“Did you know?” Hempnet Nov. 1995 , sec 2 page 1.
Evans, F.J. “Analgesic and Anti-inflammmatory Activity of Constituents of Cannabis Sativa.” Circo Medical Report 4 (1988) : 361-371.
Silverberg, Ivan M.D. Letter. Mayo Clinic Monthly Journal 34 May 1994 : 21.