The medical use of Marijuana

                The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes has proved to be effective and it should be within parent’s rights to allow their child to use it for such purposes under the supervision of the child’s doctor.  The debate has continued for years while research overwhelmingly proves the benefits.  In the meantime, people whose suffering could be eased through the use of marijuana continue to suffer.

            Cannabis indica or marijuana has long been recommended by the medical community for therapeutic purposes.  It was the subject of one-hundred plus articles in European and American medical journals between the years of 1840-1900.  It proved to be beneficial in several different areas including as an appetite stimulant, a muscle relaxant, an analgesic, a hypnotic, an anticonvulsant and as a remedy for migraines.  In the early part of the twentieth century the use of marijuana declined when injectable opiates and oral medications such as aspirin and barbiturates became available.

            The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 made it next to impossible to acquire marijuana, although its purpose was to prevent non-medical use.  Eventually it was classified as a Schedule I drug and was deemed unsafe to use under the Controlled Substances Act. Finally in 1986, the Drug Enforcement Administration agreed to the public hearings, as petitioned by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  After two years of hearings, Judge Francis L. Young found marijuana to be an accepted form of treatment in the United States.  Judge Young’s ruling for reclassification was overruled by the DEA in March of 1992.  It was ironic since Judge Young was the DEA’s administrative law judge.  (Lester Grinspoon, 1995)

            As a result of legislation passed in 1978, some patients were able to acquire marijuana for medicinal purposes.  The legislation allowed for patients with particular disorders to legally use marijuana.  It included thirty-six states.  Attempts at developing formal research programs were abandoned due to all the red tape.  After the government had granted Compassionate IND’s (also called Individual Treatment IND’s) between the years of 1976 and 1989, the program was then discontinued in 1992.  (Lester Grinspoon, 1995)

            One of the primary concerns regarding the use of marijuana includes the long-term effects on the lungs. Cannabis contains more harmful tars than tobacco. However, it takes only a small amount of Cannabis for medicinal purposes. Another concern is that the use of marijuana could lead to other illegal drug use and the addictive powers. Both of these concerns have been disproved by several studies.  Actually the greatest concern should be the danger patents face in trying to obtain marijuana illegally.  They are in threat of being harmed by illicit drug dealings as well as the threat of prosecution. (Lester Grinspoon, 1995)

            In a Phase III trial conducted in California between 1981 and 1989 which involved the use of marijuana by chemotherapy patients in an out-patient setting.  The trial found that marijuana was effective in treating nausea.   According to the California Research Advisory Panel, “Over 74 percent of the cancer patients treated in the program have reported that marijuana is more effective n relieving their nausea and vomiting than any other drug they have tried.”  (Kevin B. Zeese, 1988)

            Michigan conducted a study that compared the therapeutic effects of Torecan (an antiemetic) and marijuana.  The manner in which this study was conducted allowed patients to cross over to the alternate therapy.  They did not know which drug they were using. The results found that of the 165 patients, 71.1 percent who took marijuana had no nausea or only moderate nausea and ninety percent of the patients taking marijuana chose to continue with that drug.  Twenty-two of the twenty-three patients taking Torecan chose to switch to the alternate drug.  The negative side effects that were reported were sleepiness and sore throat.  A positive side effect was increased appetite.  (Kevin B. Zeese, 1988)

            The New York Department of Health conducted a phase III trial.  The question the study addressed was designed to determine how effective marijuana was in preventing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients when previous therapies failed.  The study which took place in 1985 included 208 patients from 55 different practitioners.  The patients had 514 treatments with marijuana cigarettes provided by the NIDA.  One-hundred and ninety-nine patients were evaluated at five different hospitals in New York.  North Shore Hospital determined that marijuana reduced nausea 92.9 percent of the time.  Columbia Memorial Hospital found that marijuana was effective 89.7 percent of the time.  Upstate Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and Jamestown Hospital found that smoking marijuana was effective in reducing nausea 100 percent of the time.  The final report indicated that 93 percent of the time, marijuana was more effective than alternate antiemetics.  (Kevin B. Zeese, 1988)

            The Georgia study evaluated 119 patients who didn’t respond to other therapies for preventing nausea.  The patients were given either marijuana or THC pills. The success rate for marijuana was 73.1 percent and the success rate for THC was 76 percent.  It was determined that when THC failed it was either because it didn’t help with the nausea and vomiting or due to adverse reactions.  The marijuana generally failed due to intolerance to smoking and because it didn’t reduce the nausea and vomiting.  (Kevin B. Zeese, 1988)

            These studies only represent a few of the studies that have been done and of these studies only one study found that marijuana wasn’t as effective.  Still, the studies proving the effectiveness of marijuana are staggering in comparison to those that aren’t favorable.

            In the case of the Hastings Report: Mother and son: the case of medical marijuana, the mother was completely justified in allowing her son to be treated with marijuana. The son, JJ, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and impulse control disorder, was suffering tremendously.  The adverse affects of these illnesses made it impossible for him to participate in a school setting.  The disorders were preventing his learning and socialization.

 The use of traditional medications in treating her son was exhausted.  He had been to sixteen different doctors and had been prescribed over nineteen different medications.  He had been over medicated and he had adverse reactions to many of the medications.  Besides the medications, the mother had also tried behavior modification techniques.  Nothing worked for her son.  Medicating her son with marijuana was a last resort.  The marijuana treatment was overseen by her son’s doctor and the results were dramatic.  His social worker and teachers all gave shining reports on JJ’s behavior. (Clark, 2002)

The majority of the research proves that marijuana is an effective treatment, as was the case with JJ.  The treatments should be overseen by a physician and perhaps it should only be prescribed as a last resort, when all other means of treatment have been exhausted, but marijuana therapy should definitely be a legal alternative.  It should also be within the parent’s rights to allow their child to be treated with marijuana without the interference from the county, state, or federal government.

Works Cited
Clark, K. O. (2002). Mother and son: the case of medical marijuana. Retrieved November 11, 2008, from The Hastings Report Center:

Kevin B. Zeese, E. (1988, November 6). Summary of Results of State-sponsored Medical Marijuana Studies. Retrieved November 11, 2008, from Journal of the American Medical Association:

Lester Grinspoon, M. a. (1995). Marihuana as Medicine, A Plea for Reconsideration. Journal of the American Medical Association , 1875-1876.


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