Marijuana Briefing Paper - 2003
The Need to Change State and Federal Law
For thousands of years, marijuana has been used to treat a wide variety
of ailments. Until 1937, marijuana (Cannabis sativa L. ) was legal
in the United States for all purposes. Presently, federal law allows only
seven (7) Americans to use marijuana as a medicine.
On March 17, 1999, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that "there are some limited circumstances in which we recommend smoking marijuana for medical uses." The
IOM report released that day was the result of two years of research that
was funded by the White House drug policy office, which comprised a meta-analysis
of all existing data on marijuana's therapeutic uses .
Marijuana is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known.
No one has ever died from an overdose, and it has a wide variety of therapeutic
Marijuana is frequently beneficial in the treatment of the following conditions:
Relief from nausea and increase of appetite;
Reduction of intraocular ("within the eye") pressure;
Reduction of muscle spasms;
Relief from chronic pain.
Each of these applications has been deemed legitimate by at least one court, legislature, and/or government agency in the United States.
AIDS. Marijuana can reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by the ailment itself and by various AIDS medications.
Glaucoma. Marijuana can reduce intraocular pressure, thereby alleviating the pain and slowing -- and sometimes stopping -- the progress of the condition. (Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in
the United States. It damages vision by increasing eye pressure over time.)
Cancer. Marijuana can stimulate the appetite and alleviate nausea and vomiting, which are common side effects of chemotherapy treatment.
Multiple Sclerosis. Marijuana can limit the muscle pain and spasticity caused by the disease, as well as relieving tremor and unsteadiness of gait. (Multiple sclerosis is the leading cause of
neurological disability among young and middle-aged adults in the United States.)
Epilepsy. Marijuana can prevent epileptic seizures in some patients.
Chronic Pain. Marijuana can alleviate the chronic, often debilitating pain caused by myriad disorders and injuries.
Many patients also report that marijuana is useful for treating arthritis,
migraine, menstrual cramps, alcohol and opiate addiction, and depression
and other debilitating mood disorders.
Marijuana could be helpful for millions of patients in the United States.
Nevertheless, other than for the seven people with special permission
from the federal government, medical marijuana remains illegal!
People currently suffering from any of the conditions mentioned above,
for whom the legal medical options have proven unsafe or ineffective, have
Continue to suffer from the ailment itself; or
Illegally obtain marijuana -- and risk suffering consequences such as:
an insufficient supply due to the prohibition-inflated price or scarcity;
impure, contaminated, or chemically adulterated marijuana;
arrests, fines, court costs, property forfeiture, incarceration, probation, and criminal records.
Prior to 1937, at least 27 medicines containing marijuana were legally available in the United States. Many were made by well-known pharmaceutical firms that still exist today, such as Squibb (now Bristol-Myers
Squibb) and Eli Lilly. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 federally prohibited marijuana. Dr. William C. Woodward of the American Medical Association opposed the Act, testifying that prohibition would ultimately
prevent the medicinal uses of marijuana.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 placed all illicit and prescription
drugs into five "schedules" (categories). Marijuana was placed in Schedule
I, defining it as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted
medicinal use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted
safety for use under medical supervision.
This definition simply does not apply to marijuana. Of course, at the
time of the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana had been prohibited for
more than three decades. Its medicinal uses forgotten, marijuana was considered
a dangerous and addictive narcotic.
A substantial increase in the number of recreational users in the 1970s
contributed to the rediscovery of marijuana's medicinal uses:
As the word spread, more and more patients started self-medicating with marijuana. However, marijuana's Schedule I status bars doctors from prescribing it and severely curtails research.
Many scientists studied the health effects of marijuana and inadvertently discovered marijuana's astonishing medicinal history in the process.
Many who used marijuana recreationally also suffered from diseases for which marijuana is beneficial. By fluke, they discovered its therapeutic usefulness.
Page two Medical Marijuana