Medical Marijuana: Unanswered Questions

The push for medical marijuana has gained momentum in recent years, although California and Arizona first passed voter-approved ballot initiatives all the way back in 1996. Only now – after the Obama administration promised there would be no federal recriminations against physicians who prescribe pot – have the dispensaries sprouted up, providing people with access to marijuana, literature, papers, bongs and pipes. In 16 states, patients can legally purchase and use cannabis as a means of relieving their medical conditions.

But Does It Work?

Extensive studies have determined that, yes, smoking marijuana has intoxicating effects. All reasonable people agree that one shouldn’t be stoned when driving a forklift, or operating a table saw, or performing an appendectomy, any more than one should be drunk while doing so. We also know that it is impossible to receive a fatal dose of THC, since none of the areas of the brain that control basic life functions are equipped with THC receptors. As for the relief it provides to those who suffer from chronic illnesses, a National Institute of Health study long ago concluded that there was enough evidence of marijuana’s beneficial properties to justify further studies.

Take As Needed

Those who oppose medical marijuana have a rebuttal in the form of a pill called Marinol, which they tout as a dosage-controlled way to provide THC. Particularly among cancer patients who experience nausea and appetite loss associated with chemotherapy, the preferred method is still to smoke cannabis. The widespread availability of bongs, pipes and other smoking paraphernalia (which cool the smoke to provide a smoother hit) are the most sensible way for them to self-administer marijuana as a medication.

Newer studies have shown evidence that THC has preventive properties that could be more important than any therapeutic benefits it may offer. From cancer to Alzheimer’s, it appears to protect cells from becoming susceptible to deposits or decay. From one goal to the other, the case has been made for medical marijuana.

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