Thirty-three of the fifty states allows cannabis for medical purposes – although some are yet to be operational and others cover a limited number of medical conditions.
Their approach to legal marijuana differs too. While some allow the home cultivation and dispensaries of cannabis, others only permit its dispensaries or home cultivation.
Regardless, these states have patient registry forms, which protect against arrest to approved patients – caught in possession of marijuana up to a certain amount.
For instance, you can safely possess up to 28 grams of medical marijuana in New York. Yet, any amounts higher than 28 grams warrant a fine of $50 for first-time offenders and $200 for second-time offenders. Meanwhile, a joint can cost up to $500 as fine and three months of jail time. Also, home-growing is illegal with a possible one year jail time.
Legalizing marijuana is a hotly debated topic, but the increasing number of jurisdictions allowing for medical marijuana indicates a stronger motivation – which could be wrapped up in the following reasons.
- The Need to Reduce the Use of Opioid Painkillers
Several studies show that legal marijuana can reduce opioid-related deaths. The reasons: Marijuana is less addictive and has fewer side effects when compared to existing painkillers. Being less addictive decreases the risks of marijuana misuse or overdose, making it an excellent cure for the opioid epidemic.
According to the CDC, opioids were responsible for 46.8% of overdose-related deaths in 2018. Opioid, oxycodone, morphine, and other painkillers are addictive, which increases the risk of their misuse and overdose. Well, unless patients are keen on following the doctors’ orders.
Therefore, marijuana should be used to treat chronic pain, otherwise treated using opioids painkillers – to save lives. Besides, medical cannabis has high medical benefits as patients have reported feeling better overall after using it.
To that end, the most common application of medical marijuana is pain control. It’s not strong enough to treat severe pain (e.g., broken bone or post-surgical pain), but it’s useful in chronic pain – affecting many Americans.
Medical cannabis can also replace Aleve, Advil, and other NSAIDs in patients with kidney problems, GERD, and ulcers. In particular, marijuana appears to treat nerve pain and multiple sclerosis– an area with limited painkiller options. Lyrica, Neurontin, and other present options are highly sedating. Marijuana, on its end, allows the patients to resume their regular duties without feeling disengaged.
In other news, cannabis is reported to be an effective muscle relaxant, with an ability to lessen tremors in Parkinson’s disease. The substance is also successful in treating endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions whose final pathway is chronic pain.
- Potential Medical Benefits
Cannabis is a complex substance with its plant containing over 400 chemical compounds. Sixty of these are cannabinoid compounds, some with opposing effects – which often cause adverse health effects. However, experts conclude that the associated effects of medical marijuana are dependent on how it’s administered and under what circumstances.
In New York, medicinal cannabis has been used successfully to treat the symptoms of digestive disorders. In Florida and California, marijuana has successfully been used to treat AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and epilepsy. The substance is reported to be effective in treating Dravet syndrome – a form of epilepsy that’s impossible to control.
Other studies indicate that cannabis can treat insomnia, anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Simultaneously, some scientific data show the potential of cannabinoid drugs in controlling nausea and vomiting.
Some Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologists, in collaboration with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, discovered that cannabis users have healthier waist sizes, lower fasting insulin levels, and BMI scores. That, in turn, lower their risk of type II diabetes.
The lead investigator Murray Mittleman, M.D., noted: “Previous epidemiologic studies have found lower prevalence rates of obesity and diabetes in marijuana users.” He said that their study was the first to gauge the relationship between marijuana use and fasting insulin, glucose, and insulin resistance.
Recently, there’s an interest in using medical marijuana to treat PTSD in veterans.
Each of the referenced studies recommends further research to prove even more hypotheses before a reliable inference can be drawn.
On its end, the federal government continues to disregard the medical potential of marijuana, mainly because of the circumstantial findings surrounding the claims.
Unfortunately, their judgment lies in a catch 22 scenario. The federal government needs scientific research to prove marijuana has medical values, yet its restrictions hinder more research.
- Popular Support by Americans
The increased support for legal marijuana has increased the number of states legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical purposes.
A survey by Pew Research Center concluded that 73% of American voters support medical marijuana, including 61% of Republicans, 76% of independents, and 80% of Democrats. In their new survey, the Pew Research Center noted a decrease in the number of opponents, from 52% in 2010 to 32% in 2018.
Nonetheless, there remain vast generational and partisan differences in views of cannabis legalization. For instance, nearly 80% of democrats support its legalization, while only 55% of Republicans favour cannabis legalization.
Majorities of Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers support marijuana legalization. However, individuals in the Silent Generation (928-1945) are majorly against its legalization.
When it comes to the substance’s specific uses, around 90% of the respondents supported the legalization of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes. 59% favoured the legalization for both medical and recreational purposes, and 32% supported medical use only.
- The War on Drugs is Getting Expensive
Proponents of legal marijuana note that its prohibition measures have failed to reduce the use and access to marijuana – all while wasting billions of dollars in arresting and incarcerating non-violent drug offenders. There have also been thousands of racially-skewed arrests (annually) as a result.
Contrary, legal marijuana allows for safer use of the plant without any fear of arrest – while allowing governments to raise revenue.
A 2013 report indicates that there are thousands of marijuana-related arrests each year. However, the arrests are racially-skewed: White and black Americans use cannabis at similar rates, but black users were 3.7 more likely to be arrested in 2010.
These arrests, besides time and money, also damage the government’s reputation. Cathy Lanier, former police chief in Washington, DC, once noted:” All those arrests do is make people hate us. Marijuana users are unlikely to attack and kill a cop. They want to get a bag of chips and relax.”
Besides, legalizing marijuana has not increased its usage – as evident from the legalization process trailblazers. In Colorado, for instance, the number of teenagers using marijuana has steadily dropped since the substance was legalized. In Florida, one can only obtain medical marijuana if they have a qualifying condition. Even so, they must see a state-certified doctor determine the necessity of the prescription.
- As a New Source of Tax Revenue
A 2010 paper by the Libertarian Cato Institute concluded that legal marijuana would net approximately $17.4 billion for all government levels – annually. Half of the amount was projected to come from reduced drug enforcement costs and the rest from taxing marijuana.
Notably, taxing marijuana can be complicated. States that have legalized its use have trouble projecting the size of a legal marijuana market and setting up tax rates and regulations. Then there’s the difficulty in bringing marijuana out of the black market. Nonetheless, tax revenues remain an excellent incentive for the legalization of medical marijuana.
While there are still questions of how to regulate marijuana recommendation, dispensing, and registration of patients, more states are proceeding to allow medical marijuana – and reaping the benefits. Their motivation could be marijuana’s medical benefits, the popular support, the need to lower the risk of painkillers, and lower drug enforcement costs – all while generating tax revenue.