Marijuana: A Horticultural Revolution, A Medical and Legal Battle


For years there has been a wonder drug which has befriended countless sick
patients in a number of countries. A relatively inexpensive drug that is not
covered by health care plans which has aided the ill both mentally and
physically--marijuana. Significant scientific and medical studies have
demonstrated that marijuana is safe for use under medical supervision and that
the cannabis plant, in its natural form, has important therapeutic benefits that
are often of critical medical importance to persons afflicted with a variety of
life-threatening illnesses. Courts have recognized marijuana\'s medical value in
treatment and have ruled that marijuana can be a drug of “necessity” in the
treatment of glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. From the
collection of information we now have on marijuana\'s health benefits for the ill,
there is no longer any reason to keep it illegal. It should therefore be legal
for licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana for terminal patients for whom it
offers the only reasonable opportunity for living without unbearable pain.
Marijuana has been used many times to help ease pain and suffering. It
often eases nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, reduces the pain
of AIDS patients and lowers eye pressure in glaucoma sufferers. Cancer and AIDS
patients often lose a lot of weight, either due directly to their illness or
indirectly to the treatment of the illness. Dramatic weight loss puts their
lives in even more danger. Marijuana stimulates the appetite, thus enabling
patients to eat more and gain weight which in turn strengthens the immune system.
So if there are so many benefits, then why is marijuana not legal? Many
states contend that the ban on medical marijuana is necessary to prevent drug
abuse and the availability of illicit drugs and to control the purity of
medicinal drug products. These states have no compelling interest in
intervening to needlessly prolong terminal patients\' suffering. States should
allow the medical use of marijuana under strict regulations, rather than uphold
an outdated drug classification scheme.
While federal agencies adamantly maintain marijuana has “no accepted
medical use in treatment in the United States,” the medical prohibition has come
under strong legal challenge from seriously ill Americans who have been arrested
on marijuana-related charges. In U.S. v. Randall, a Washington, D.C. man
afflicted by glaucoma employed the little-used Common Law doctrine of necessity
to defend himself against criminal charges of marijuana cultivation. On
November 24, 1976, federal Judge James Washington ruled Randall\'s use of
marijuana constituted a “medical necessity.” In part, Judge Washington ruled:

While blindness was shown by competent medical testimony
to be the otherwise inevitable result of defendant\'s disease, no
adverse effects from the smoking of marijuana have been demon-
strated. Medical evidence suggests that the medical prohibition
is not well-founded.

If a judge can determine when a “medical necessity” is warranted and can rule
that a sick individual should be granted the legal use of marijuana, then should
a licensed physician not be just as capable of doing so, if not...much more
capable? Well trained medical professionals rather than inapt federal
bureaucrats should be responsible for determining a patient\'s medical care
routine.
This is an intolerable, untenable legal situation. Unless legislators and
regulators attend to these urgent human needs and rapidly move to correct the
anomaly arising from the absolute prohibition of marijuana which forces law
abiding citizens into the streets - - and criminality - to meet their legitimate
medical needs, cases of the type of U.S. v. Randall will continue to be
prevalent and will increase considerably. There is a pressing need for a more
compassionate, humane law which clearly discriminates between the criminal
conduct of those who socially abuse chemicals and the legitimate medical needs
of seriously ill patients whose welfare and very lives may depend on the prudent
therapeutic use of those very same substances.

Category: Social Issues