The Moral question of legalizing Marijuana Essay
Marijuana is the term given to the dried form of the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. It is a dried and shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves of Cannabis sativa. (Stephens, 2008). The main chemical in the plant, which gives the users a kind of mental ‘high’, is the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC for short. Marijuana is also called as Cannabis, Hash, Ganja, Pot, Weed, etc. It is used by the people for many purposes. The most common purpose for using Marijuana is for ‘mental pleasure’. People use marijuana to derive pleasure from it, then it can ruin the mental and physical health of the user. The rising numbers of people who are addicted to marijuana bring forth the severity of the problem. But, apart from these common but dubious modes, one of the positive but underrated ways in which Marijuana can be used is in the form of medicinal drugs to treat many health ailments, which cannot be optimally treated by other drugs. So, the moral question here is whether it right to overlook the negative effects of Marijuana, legalize it and use it for medicinal purposes.
That is, although Marijuana has negative effects, it will be negative only if it is used in excessive and extreme manner. However, the other perspective is, using Marijuana aptly and positively will save many lives and eliminate their sufferings. So, this paper will focus on this contemporary problem, making a case that would be just to legalize Marijuana. Although legalizing Marijuana will bring financial advantages to the state coffers, the main crux based on which it should be legalized, is its use for medicinal purposes. So, this paper will argue for legalization and will justify such a measure by listing out how it can be used to treat many medical aliments, thereby providing a moral justification.
Legalization of marijuana has been an issue of contention of late with some arguing that legalization is good and others opposing it completely. The sparkle to kick-off the debate was thrown when San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, instigated a legislation to legalize marijuana in California (Sabatini, 2009). This in turn has attracted diverse dimensions with some big names like California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, once a staunch opposer on the move, coming out publicly to accept that the time is now that lawmakers should exclusively debate the issue considering the economic aspect of marijuana trade as the downturn continues to bite (Sabatini, 2009). Over 500 economists including well known Friedman, Nobel Laureate George Akerlof, Daron Acemoglu, Howard Margolis and Walter Williams have surprised many following their decision to endorse Professor Mirons report whose economic aspect on marijuana was inclined to marijuana legalization (Moffat, 2009). According to Miron's (2005) therefore, legalization of marijuana would thus save the Government a total expenditure of $7.7 billion annually expended on police budget, judicial and legal budget and correctional budget in prisons. In addition it will not only reduce expenditure but will as well generate revenue if it were to be taxed. According to the report, if marijuana was to be taxed like any other good, it would generate $2.4 billion worth of tax revenues annually (Miron 2005). As mentioned above, although these financial advantages in a way support legalization, it cannot be considered as moral backing. Legalization can be supported from moral point of view, only if its medical advantages are focused.
Recently, number of American states, quite notably California, has formulated laws to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Also, California has passed the Proposition 215 or Compassionate Use Act, which legally protects Marijuana users from criminal prosecution, if their Marijuana use was recommended by a doctor as a treatment option. But, still federal agents have arrested many patients as part of federal laws, even though they used “medical marijuana”, which as mentioned above is legally tenable. To prevent this kind of mistakes and importantly to encourage the use of Marijuana for medicinal purposes, the U.S. government and the governments of other countries should legalize Marijuana. There is also good support among the American public for the legalization of Marijuana. “72 percent of respondents in an AARP survey agree that “adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it.” (Koppen). Although misusing Marijuana is problematic, its applications in the medical field in treating and 'subsidizing' many diseases including the major ones like Cancer and AIDS should be welcomed, appreciated and importantly legalized. People all over the world will optimally use or misuse any particular thing and Marijuana also falls under this category. But, in this case, its optimal use clearly outweighs the misuse. That is, human life is always precious, but many people world over are suffering from many diseases and undergoing a lot of physical and mental pain, affecting even their related and associated lives. Their pain should be treated or even minimized by using options like legalized Marijuana and help them live a normal and happy life.
Marijuana’s medicinal value
Usage of marijuana as part of medicinal practice started around 5,000 years ago, but the Western medicine embraced it only after 1850’s. Many medical practitioners used it to treat major as well as minor health complications. It remained in the United States’ pharmacopoeia as one of the prescription drugs till 1941. But, it was removed after the Congress adopted the Marijuana Tax Act, thereby impeding physicians from prescribing it. This has left many suffering patients in the lurch as other options did not give the desired results. So, its removal from the list of medical drugs and the eventual banning should be revoked and Marijuana should be legalized, as part of moral obligation on the government to save a sizable portion of the population.
The medicinal value of Marijuana is quite optimal, as it can treat many diseases and complications effectively or at least minimize the physical and mental pain associated with those diseases. Marijuana’s main medical application is as a pain reliever. That is, Marijuana or Cannabis has a component called cannabinoids and this can act on the pain receptors in the nerves to lessen the pain. This is proved through various studies, with all proving that pain arising as part of various diseases can be lessened or even cured with Marijuana. “Many studies have found cannabinoids are integral to the body's pain mechanisms. Other studies suggest cannabinoids work with other pain medications like opiates to provide pain relief at lower dosages. In addition, patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments attest that marijuana helps ease their pain” (Drug Policy Alliance Network). This pain relieving role of Marijuana is significant and so Marijuana should be legalized and allowed for medical treatment
Muscle Spasticity is one of the common but painful problems for patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis and spinal cord injury. For that also, Marijuana can be used with optimal results. That is, if cannabinoids is injected into the patients, it can act on the nerve endings in the muscle and thereby relaxes it, controlling the muscle spasms. “In addition, a survey of British and American MS patients reports that after ingesting marijuana a significant majority experienced substantial improvements in controlling muscle spasticity and pain” (Drug Policy Alliance Network). People with these conditions are already facing a lot of sufferings because of their condition like limited mobility, incontinences, pressure sores, etc, etc, so, at least the problem of muscle spasticity can be controlled with Marijuana and given some relief.
People particularly elderly are affected by many movement disorders like dystonia, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Tourette's syndrome. These disorders are caused by problems in the basal ganglia and their subcortical connections in the brain. But, with CB1 (cannabinoids) receptors found in good numbers in basal ganglia, cannabinoids rich Marijuana can be used to treat or even control the associated problems of these diseases. Also, these movement disorders are exacerbated by stress. So, from that aspect also Marijuana can play a positive role because of its relaxing powers.
A new study conducted also found that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can also act as an effective antidepressant, when used in low doses. That is, with Marijuana’s cannabinoids having similar chemical properties like the natural substances in the brain, it can treat mental depression. By relaxing the mind of the patient, Marijuana can lower the depression levels. This drop in depression levels can optimize the confidence level of the patient. So, psychiatrists are favoring the use of Marijuana as part of their treatment.
Marijuana can also help patients suffering from HIV by acting as a powerful appetite stimulant. That is, patients with AIDS will normally have an impaired appetite and at the same time nausea. This will lead to a wasting syndrome, where their muscles atrophied, leading to anorexia. So, to prevent these associated complications, patients with AIDS are also treated with Marijuana based drugs. “In the U.S. and elsewhere, Marinol, a drug that is a synthetic form of marijuana and contains its active ingredient, THC, is available by prescription to treat loss of appetite associated with weight loss in AIDS patients.” (Kirchheimer). Marijuana first by acting as an appetite stimulant increases the food intake of the patients, thereby helping the body to get all the nutrients and maintain sufficient body mass. Then, also by acting as a controller of nausea, it prevents the food taken from coming out. This helps the AIDS patients from becoming undernourished and anorexic, thereby enabling them to live without pain.
The earlier and current research on Marijuana and its relation to cancer suggest that apart from not causing cancer, it can play a crucial role in the treatment of cancer. One of the major criticisms against Marijuana is that, it could cause cancer. But, the fact is, chances of getting lung cancer and other lung diseases because of smoking marijuana is minuscule. Apart from this positive perspective of Marijuana, many researchers have shown that it can importantly treat cancers. That is, German researchers opine that by inhibiting the expansion of cancer cells, marijuana used as part of chemotherapy can inhibit cancer. “Researchers at the University of Rostock in Germany published their report in January 2008. The study offers scientists, clues about how some components of marijuana interact with cells to block tumor growth.” (mjlegal.org). Likewise, the Harvard University researchers in 2007 and the researchers at Madrid's Complutense University in 2000 have reported the finding that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive component of marijuana, has destroyed malignant tumors in rats and thereby reduced the growth of lung cancer. So, this important application of Marijuana clearly shows how it can be effective in the medical field, thus strengthening its claim for legalization.
From the above elucidation of facts, it is clear that Marijuana can benefit human beings, if it is used as a medicine. So, only when people use marijuana to derive pleasure from it and use it excessively and extremely, it can ruin the mental and physical health of the user. So, the use of Marijuana should be maximally limited for medicinal purposes, minimizing other misappropriation. Minimizing and even eliminating the wrongful use of Marijuana could correct any moral discrepancies that may arise because of legalization. The fact is, although marijuana is banned in various countries, it is not helping to control the problem of marijuana. So, government should focus on spreading awareness among the people, about marijuana and its harmful effects. The media can be used for educating people about marijuana and the misconceptions associated with it. As the number of students using marijuana is rising, schools should educate the children about the harmful effects of marijuana on the health and life of the user. Colleges can also spread awareness among its students regarding marijuana and its injurious impacts on one's health. Parents should be educated about the symptoms that point towards the use of marijuana, as this will aid them to notice any changes in the behavior of their children. Many people consume marijuana out of curiosity for the first time but later they are addicted to it. When people are educated about the use of marijuana and how it can lead to addiction, then people will realize that using marijuana for pleasure can make their life miserable. People, who have succeeded in giving their addiction to marijuana, can be encouraged to reveal their stories on television. Their suffering and struggle with marijuana will discourage other people from falling victim to marijuana. Awareness campaigns can be arranged in schools, colleges and public places. Only when the people are aware about the gravity of problems created by the addiction of marijuana, they will keep away from marijuana. So, if these steps are taken, any negative moral questioning against legalization can be avoided, and more importantly the wrongful use can be controlled, with Marijuana’s medical features helping and saving many human lives.
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