What Are the Pros and Cons of Medical Marijuana?

The Debate Over the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Use

Medical marijuana buds
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The debate over medical marijuana is festering and coming to a head. Many U.S. states now have active medical marijuana laws, but the federal government still classifies it as a Class I controlled substance, which is illegal to possess. With strong supporters on each side of the debate, the arguments for and against the legalization or marijuana are hot topics. What are the debated pros and cons of medical marijuana?

The Pros of Medical Marijuana

The legalization of marijuana for medical reasons is viewed favorably by many Americans, including members of the medical community and congress.

Some of the pros to medical marijuana that they argue include:

  • Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, especially caused by chemotherapy used to treat cancer.
  • Marijuana can relieve the spasticity of the muscles that is sometimes associated with multiple sclerosis and paralysis.
  • Marijuana can help treat appetite loss associated with HIV/AIDS and certain types of cancers.
  • Marijuana can relieve certain types of pain.
  • Marijuana is safe, safer in fact than most other medications prescribed to treat the same symptoms.
  • Studies show that smoking marijuana alone (without the concurrent use of tobacco) does not increase the risk of lung diseases.
  • Marijuana has been used for centuries as a medicinal agent to good effect.

    The Cons of Medical Marijuana

    For every person who is for the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, there is another who argues against it. Some of the arguments from the opposition include:

    • Frequent marijuana use can seriously affect your short-term memory.
    • Frequent use can impair your cognitive ability.
    • Smoking anything, whether it's tobacco or marijuana, can seriously damage your lung tissue.
    • Not enough evidence supports marijuana as an effective pain-relieving agent.
    • Marijuana carries a risk of abuse and addiction.
    • Smoked marijuana contains cancer-causing compounds.
    • Smoked marijuana has been implicated in a high percentage of automobile crashes and workplace accidents.

    Unfortunately, clinical trials to evaluate the effectiveness of marijuana to treat certain conditions have been restrictive and limited. Until marijuana is downgraded from a Schedule I drug of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), widespread clinical trials are unlikely to happen. If we really want a conclusive answer as to whether marijuana is valuable for symptom management, it needs to be evaluated using the same standards as other medications.

    Where Does the Argument Stand Today?

    The question of legalizing marijuana refers to whether or not Americans should be allowed to legally grow, sell, buy, or ingest marijuana. At present, the U.S. government claims the right to, and does, criminalize the growing, selling and possession of marijuana in most states.

    Medical marijuana remains controversial but is gaining traction as a legitimate recommendation for a variety of symptoms.

    Washington, D.C. and 28 states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but it’s going to take more moves by policy makers and the U.S. government for it be sold nationwide. It will, however, likely require a much larger body of legitimate scientific research to prove or disprove the efficacy of medical marijuana, and potentially loosen the restrictions on its use.

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