By: Lamar Greene
The United States is split down the middle—29 states and the District of Columbia have legalizing medical marijuana and 21 states that have not. This list specifically reflects those states that have legalize marijuana for medical purposes only, thus excluding states that regulate the use of nonpsychoactive marijuana extract called cannabidiol (CBD).
Despite the movement towards legalized medical marijuana for residents in various states, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still considers marijuana a schedule 1 drug. Schedule 1 drugs, substances, and chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Sanjay Gupta, MD, the Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN speaks to the DEA’s action of listing marijuana as a schedule 1 drug in a CNN article, where he discusses why he changed from opposing to supporting legalization.
For more than 3,000 years marijuana has been used for pain management and treating health issues ranging from digestive issues to psychological disorders. Historically, the Chinese Emperor Fu His referenced marijuana as a popular medicine used by Chinese civilization in 2900 B.C. . In some cases since the 1970s, the drug has been used to treat glaucoma. Today, marijuana is used to relieve pain and control chemotherapy-related nausea for cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. Some studies have shown that marijuana can also be helpful in treating neuropathic pain and there are some implications that it may treat neurologic conditions such as seizures, multiple sclerosis, Chron’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Long-term adverse effects of medical marijuana use are not fully understood. Some studies reveal respiratory and cardiovascular complications are a potential threat. Research has shown that frequent use, particularly in high doses, can cause problems with short-term memory and concentration.
The mixed results of marijuana’s impact on health are a driving force behind the FDA having not approved the marijuana plant as medicine. To determine benefits and risks of a possible medication, the FDA requires carefully conducted clinical trials performed on hundreds of thousands of human subjects. Because researchers have not conducted enough large-scale clinical trials to determine whether the benefits of the marijuana plant outweigh its associated risks, further research must is needed in order for the FDA to push the needle in the debate of medical marijuana forward.
1. Ball, J. K., Kissin, W., Drug Abuse Warning Network., ., United States. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Office of Applied Studies., . (2003). Mortality data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2001. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
2. Deitch, R. (2003). Hemp: American history revisited: the plant with a divided history. New York: Algora Pub.
3. Nathan MD, DFAPA, D. L., Clark MD, JD, MPH, H., & Elders MD, MS, J. (n.d.). The Physicians’ Case for Marijuana Legalization. Retrieved October 12, 2017, from http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/ref/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304052