What is the Importance of Medical Marijuana?
Presence of criminal penalties for Possession and Use of Marijuana was a
rigid requirement of US drug laws and was successfully made a world
standard via US sponsored International Treaties promulgated by the UN.
Marijuana is accordingly listed as a Schedule 1 drug, not to be used under
any circumstances, except under special government license for research. In
practice, the government has refused to authorize such research unless
designed to demonstrate marijuana toxicity.
Since the early Nineteen Eighties, changes in disease prevalence and medical
care have greatly increased the population of patients who can benefit from
therapeutic marijuana, AIDS patients and cancer patients receiving
increasingly effective chemotherapy. Despite long-standing opposition to
marijuana as medicine, the government was forced to subsidize commercial
research which led to production of Marinol, a synthetic analogue of the
principle active agent in marijuana and seemingly responsible for most, if
not all of its psychotropic and medicinal properties. This agent is
approved for Schedule 2 (tightly regulated by special prescription).
Although effective, Marinol is overall less well tolerated, less effective
and considerably more expensive than herbal marijuana. In 1996, medical use
of marijuana was approved by state-wide ballot initiatives in California
and Arizona, thus setting up a dichotomy between state and federal law.
That battle is now in the courts where a restraining order has been issued
to prevent penalties against doctors until the issue is resolved. In the
meantime, buyers clubs are operating openly in California under local
regulations in some communities and proposals for research are being
negotiatedwith the federal government and considered by the California
legislature. Medical marijuana initiatives are currently being studied in
several other states.
Because the number of people arrested and imprisoned for marijuana
violations is the major justification for funding of the enforcement
bureaucracy, most policy experts agree that anti-marijuana laws will be
fiercely defended at the federal level and difficult to overturn.
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