Medicinal pot should be legalized, experts say

The street names for marijuana are many, including green, hemp, weed and reefer. But for some, it is called medicine.

As early as the 1800s, and even at the beginning of the industrial revolution, medical experts published at least 100 research papers that recommended the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

While the recommendations may have merit, federal law outlaws the use of marijuana. 

“The problem is that many people may misuse it,” said Dr. Shankar A. Shetty, director of student health services at Florida A&M University. “Although, in some cases, it may relieve pain. It’s also an addictive drug that impairs driving, judgment and work performance.”

Medical studies have shown that there are serious benefits of marijuana use for certain patients, including those who have contracted AIDS or certain types of cancer. 

“There is a synthetic type form of marijuana that I have given to cancer patients in pill form as prescribed by their physician,” said Jennifer Harrison-Hauer, referring to her past clinical experience.

“It was very effective because it increased the appetites in the patients. They got better and then got to go home,” said Harrison-Hauer, the current FAMU health educator who specializes in preventative measures added.

Although Harrison-Hauer has observed the positive effects of the synthetic drug, she still believes more research is necessary before the federal ban on marijuana is lifted.

One group working to lift the federal prohibition of cannabis use is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

NORML suggests the federal ban on cannabis is an inhabitant that deprives medical patients the opportunity to treat such diseases as glaucoma, nausea because of AIDS and HIV and dementia.

 The states that have decided to lift the ban on medical marijuana include: Alaska, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island, Vermont and Colorado.

However, since federal law supersedes state law, federal authorities can still arrest people possessing the drug and prosecute doctors who prescribe it. 

States like California, who have relaxed the laws, cite the drug’s medicinal benefits.  In fact, in California, a recent survey by the American Medical Association found that 44 percent of the oncologists had previously advised marijuana therapy to their patients. 

In Rhode Island, Providence hospital researchers discovered that more than 50 percent of their physicians had opinions favoring the legalization of medical marijuana.

But in most states, including Florida, possession and the use of marijuana is against the law. 

The state of Florida has recognized the benefits of the medicinal use but has no initiatives in the legislature to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

Shetty believes that if regulatory controls were set in motion, cannabis could be beneficial.  However, he wonders who would serve as the watchdog to ensure that abuse would not become an issue.  “It’s a tough call,” he said. 

Some states are heeding the call of experts and are making strides for tighter regulations. 

For example, patients in California who use the drug are required to register with the state. They must also carry a card to prove that the drug has been prescribed to them. 

Other states set regulations on how much of the drug can be prescribed and have placed restrictions on growing marijuana plants. 

Traye Prince, 22, a political science student from St. Louis, is open to exploring the benefits of medical marijuana. 

“My grandmother suffers from sickle cell anemia, and I hate to see her go through all of that pain,” Prince said. “Watching her go through that pain and reading what doctors have said about cannabis and its impact, I’m all for legalizing medicinal marijuana.”

Others agree. “When watching TV, I see many advertisements for prescription drugs and at the end they list harmful side effects,” said Kerry Gordon, 21, a computer information sciences student from Columbia, S.C. “I do not think consuming marijuana as a prescribed drug could cause side effects that are much worse.”