Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Leaving medical marijuana alone

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Leaving medical marijuana alone

I promised last time to talk about differentiating between medical and recreational marijuana. With 14 states legalizing the use of medical marijuana and other states lining up behind, I think it is an important distinction to make. There are plenty of us pot smokers who would use medical marijuana usage as an inside advantage to accessing legal marijuana. It’s convenient, it would solve the problem of availability and it would give us partakers a certain level of protection against prosecution. But let’s not do that; let’s not use this important development to further the agenda of responsible recreational use. Let’s declare our own front in the ongoing battle. It will be the less popular front and the path of more resistance, but it will better serve the cause.

There are people with real and serious afflictions that are eased by using marijuana. They deserve to have their medicine taken seriously. But when recreational users invent or conflate a problem to game the system for their own benefit, we all lose. Hey, I like getting high as much as the next person; I’ve even trained myself to clean extra well while under the influence. I’ve stated before that marijuana makes me a calmer, more balanced person. But claiming ADD or mild depression to get a prescription is a hollow victory. When we chuckle up our sleeve all the way to the dispensary, we are undermining the medical marijuana movement and appearing as opportunists.

Marijuana has a long and well documented history of medical usage. I have a textbook on epilepsy from 1895, which suggests tincture of cannabis sativa as a method for lessening the severity of seizures. I know several people with epilepsy whose lives are improved by smoking marijuana. The Herb Book by John Lust (no puns, please), which students of herbal medicine will tell you is a seminal reference book, lists 14 different usages for cannabis. Included in this list is its use as an appetite stimulant, an antidepressant, antispasmodic, and pain reliever, the very ailments that marijuana is being used for now.

Ever since being classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside cocaine and heroine, meaning there is no known benefit or reason for further study, marijuana has been caught in limbo. Most medical use and results are anecdotal, something the medical establishment dislikes. Creating a double sided blind study (control group vs. placebo and standard dosage, nobody knows which is which), the gold standard of objective studies, is impossible to do as the DEA refuses to release marijuana to researchers. So here we are stuck in no man’s land, with public opinion leading ahead of science and sound research. It is my belief that we need to free marijuana for proper research.

By blurring the lines between legitimate and necessary medical marijuana use and responsible recreational use, we undermine an important stage in the rising acceptance of all marijuana use. The anti-partakers are adamant that the medical marijuana movement is a thinly disguised effort to make marijuana available to all. Why give them any ammunition?

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