Marijuana is a dry and odorous, green or brown plant derived from the hemp plant that goes by the scientific name Cannabis sativa. In a more concentrated form marijuana is called hashish, and as a sticky black liquid it is known as hash oil. The main psychoactive chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (National Institute on Drug Abuse). The use of marijuana and the effects of THC on humans has been a heated debate for decades.
Many people believe that marijuana has numerous health benefits and should be used in the healthcare industry. Others see the benefit of legalizing marijuana as more of an ethical debate- and others believe that by decriminalizing the use of marijuana, it will save taxpayers an instrumental amount of money, as well as generate revenue for the United States government. All of the proponents of legalizing medical marijuana, whether it be for medical purposes, personal purposes or economic purposes, rely on the statistical data regarding the effects of marijuana on the human body in order to strengthen their arguments.
With no deaths ever reported from the use of marijuana, a record number of citizens being incarcerated for marijuana every year (while more violent offenders run free), and the ability to be an economic jackpot for the United States economy, the question remains- why have only eighteen states legalized the use of medicinal marijuana? Why has the government not recognized the benefits medicinally and financially for all of the public?
The medical benefits of marijuana have been studied for years and much progress has been made on the subject. Eighteen states in the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized the use of marijuana for personal use already. Marijuana contains more than 460 active chemicals and over 60 unique cannabinoids. “The major active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is primarily responsible for its therapeutic and psychoactive effects. The quantity of THC in marijuana determines the potency and effect of the product” (Seamon, 2008).
Various methods have been used to take marijuana in it’s medical form- such as inhalation, ingestion via medical marijuana edibles, use of herbal marijuana based teas, medical marijuana pills and medical marijuana tinctures. The effects of marijuana can be felt almost immediately. “THC, a cannabinoid, passes rapidly from the lungs into the bloodstream to a number of body organs. Two types of cannabinoid receptors have been identified: cannabinoid-1 and cannabinoid-2” (Seamon, 2008). Cannabinoid receptors have an effect on a wide number of neurotransmitters in the brain- including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. The effects of THC on these receptors can lead to a decrease in pain, anxiety, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and more.
While there are over 100,000 deaths per year due to prescription drug use and abuse, there has never been a single reported death from marijuana. Despite the fact that marijuana is a harmless drug with countless medical benefits, a stunning number of U.S. citizens are locked up every year for possession and use of marijuana. The number of people incarcerated for marijuana related crimes in the country is out of control (and only rising)- nearing 2 million people incarcerated across the country for marijuana related offenses.
Not only does the imprisonment of marijuana users crowd prisons and monopolize the time of the state and federal police- preventing them from being able to capture and incorporate more serious criminals, but it also costs taxpayers an estimated $2 billion a year. That money could be much better used for a wide range of things in a country with growing economic debt- not to mention the fact that it’s a crime against to taxpayers to use their money so wastefully.
Based on the medical research, the financial research and the socio-economic factors of marijuana, it seems logical that the drug should be legalized. Although the United States is making progress in the fight to legalize marijuana, many people are fearful that legalizing the drug will bring nothing but problems for America. Those people have failed to do their research. It is their own money that is being wasted on marijuana offenders annually and if the facts were more widely spread regarding the economic benefits, health benefits and benefits on society, more people would probably be more open-minded to the ideas of medical marijuana being legalized.
“DrugFacts: Marijuana.” Marijuana. National Institute on Drug Abuse, n.d. Web. 04 June 2013. <http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana>.
Seamon, Matthew J. “Medical Marijuana and the Developing Role of the Pharmacist.” University of Memphis. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 June 2013. <http://axon.psyc.memphis.edu/~charlesblaha/7705/Papers_08/samantha_daniel_medical_marijuana.pdf>.
Smith, Dave. “‘Medical’ Marijuana: 10 Health Benefits That Legitimize Legalization.” International Business Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 June 2013. <http://www.ibtimes.com/‘medical’-marijuana-10-health-benefits-legitimize-legalization-742456>.