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Marijuana Legalization, Medicinal Use and Treatment

Friday, June 21st, 2013

After it spawned a 50-year scourge of crime, poverty, homeless and mental illness, a deadly drug was outlawed in the United States.  The drug provoked dangerous, violent and otherwise illegal behaviors and a Constitutional Amendment against its manufacture, sales and use was easily passed.  It seemed, however, that the American public had other ideas.  It continued to use the drug with near impunity.  Police forces didn’t have the manpower to enforce the laws against it.  Courts were backlogged with cases, and prisons couldn’t be built fast enough to house those who were convicted.  Finally, the government gave up.  For the first time in history a Constitutional Amendment was repealed and – in 1933 – alcohol was again a legal drug.

130621 marijuana1Four years later, another drug – marijuana – was essentially taxed out of legality. In 1937, speaking before congress against the proposed law, Dr. James Woodward of the American Medical Association testified that cannabis was a perfectly safe substance used to treat scores of illnesses for over 100 years in America, and that the proposed law would deny the world access to potential medical breakthroughs.

Recently, Harvard Medical School published the results of research that indicated marijuana might be useful in controlling diabetes.  While it may seem counterintuitive to anyone who has contracted late-night munchies, its data show that marijuana users are less likely to be obese, have a lower risk for diabetes and have lower body-mass-index measurements.

Warning: Don’t skip the gym and break out the bong just yet: there’s still not enough data to tell whether marijuana could have health benefits. And the study’s author says that he relied on self-reported use of marijuana, which can be unreliable. (“Duh,” sniggers the substance abuse counselor.)  And since there’s also considerable science on the long-term deleterious effects of chronic use of chronic, the dosage used to treat illness will probably be quite limited.  (Like the “one glass of wine a day” for heart health.)

OK, so what’s the point here, I’m asking myself.  (I sometimes start writing these things without knowing where I’m going.)

I really don’t have a dog in the marijuana legalization debate.  Over the years, I’ve seen marijuana leech the motivation and potential out of countless otherwise productive folks. I would not use the drug myself, since I’m in recovery and the use of any psychoactive substance is dangerous for me.  And I sincerely have no desire to keep company with those on the forefront of marijuana legalization efforts, mostly pony-tailed hysterics with poor grammar, measly arguments and a website.

130621 Marijuana 5I think it’s this: Whether the drug is legal (alcohol) or illegal (marijuana) treating its overuse as crime just isn’t working.

By the way, neither are your justifications of yourself or your addicted loved one.  Yes, I said addicted.  Don’t buy into the argument that this drug isn’t addictive, because the science just doesn’t support that.  Addiction is a public health issue: it’s not about bad people trying to be good, it’s about sick people trying to get well.

And while you’re at it, skip the specious arguments about legality and the benign nature of the humble cannabis plant.  If you’re living in your mom’s basement smoking out and reading blogs (other than this one, I mean), marijuana is probably your co-conspirator in staying there.  Not being able to stop on your own isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s an indication that your brain chemistry is working against you.  There are effective treatments to help you get back to being the person you used to be.

Go for it, dude.

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