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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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