Top 10 Reasons Medical Marijuana Should Be Illegal
Marijuana is a funny drug. Classified alongside Narcotics as a Schedule I drug in the USA some other countries take a softer line on possession and use (although not, necessarily, on dealing). Despite a Supreme Court ruling stating that the federal government has the right to legislate on the legality or otherwise of cannabis use some US states do take a softer line with sale and possession being legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.
From the 60s on it was seen, by some sectors of society, as a perfectly acceptable thing to do. American Presidents and British Prime Ministers, amongst others, have admitted either to smoking ‘weed’ or ‘pot’ or at least to being around people who did. There is a prevailing opinion amongst liberals that marijuana is not dangerous and that occasional use will do no harm. Still others, often further to the right in their political views (but not always) believe that it is a dangerous hallucinogenic that can cause short term issues and long term problems both personally and societally.
In recent years there have been a number of groups that claim that marijuana use is therapeutic for certain medical conditions. So convincing have they been that some US states permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
The majority of Americans believe that marijuana use should not be criminalized but a significant number still agree with the federal government that it should continue to be a controlled substance. We set out 10 of the most compelling reasons why it should be illegal.
10. Legalizing Marijuana For Medical Purposes Grants It A Quasi Legal Status That Will Encourage And Legitimize Recreational Use
At the current point in time the federal government, basing their position against a significant background of scientific knowledge and in depth research has decided that there is no medical benefit to marijuana use (see below).
Marijuana is, however, a very popular illegal high, used by many Americans of all classes and sectors of society to relax, destress and enjoy the hallucinogenic side effects of the drug. Because many middle aged Americans used the drug in their younger years they see no harm in others enjoying it.
The result of this is that marijuana use, while illegal, is already tolerated and viewed as harmless by a large number of people. Against this background some people who would otherwise hesitate to get involved in drug use will feel the effects of peer pressure and end up experimenting. This pressure will be felt even more if the drug is no longer completely illegal but is given a quasi-legal status. Such a status will serve only to increase the levels of peer pressure that is placed on vulnerable youngsters to experiment with the drug because ‘it’s not really illegal’. In fact the argument that marijuana is ‘safe because it is used as a medicine for cancer and other diseases’ is often used by young people as an argument to justify their use of marijuana.
9. Legalizing Marijuana Use Would Lead To More People Using It Not Less
Laws and changes to legislation are often enacted with the very best of intentions but without regard to the principle of the law of unintended consequences. Ie changing one aspect of a system can alter the way people react and end up causing problems that were never anticipated.
Using marijuana results in costs to society; while many campaigners for legalization choose to state that these costs related to law enforcement the reality is that the majority of the costs are related to the effects of marijuana use itself (treatment, medical, societal etc). Marijuana is the main non alcoholic cause of substance abuse in the US with about 15.2 million users of which 4.2 million have a substance dependency. (This is equivalent to two thirds of all substance addicts in the US).
Many people like to draw parallels between alcohol and marijuana but for the purposes of this point the best comparison is gambling. When gambling became legal it was promoted by the authorities (it was, after all a revenue raising activity) which meant that less attention and support was given to those who engaged in illegal gambling. As a result the incidence of illegal gambling has increased with the legal channels acting as a gateway to the more lucrative, exciting illegal activities.
There is no evidence that legalizing marijuana in any way shape or form would act in a similar way, acting as a gateway to illegal use. Of course there would be a thriving legal market but more potent substances would be made available ‘under the table’. As a result it highly likely that legalizing marijuana for medical use would lead to an increase in users and a concomitant increase in the number of American addicts.
8. Users Of Medical Marijuana May Be Dishonestly ‘Gaming’ The System
Wherever a popular recreational drug is dispensed legally, for whatever reason, there will be people who try to twist the system for their own benefit. Studies on the use of methadone, an opiate provided on prescription to treat heroin addiction in the UK showed that of the 167 methadone related deaths over half of them related to prescription methadone that had been sold on the black market.
Concerns have been raised that a similar effect could be seen with the diversion of medical marijuana to the black market in the US. A 2011 study sampled over 1700 medical marijuana patients in California. The report suggested that some medical users ‘gamed the system’ by exaggerating symptoms or needs to obtain medical marijuana for recreational purposes. Further work remains to be done in this area but it must surely be uncontentious that medical marijuana is likely to find its way onto the black market eventually.
Of course many proponents of medical marijuana use (or legalized recreational use) posit that legalization (at one or both levels) will help eliminate the black market all together. That simply is not true. Following legalization in Colorado analysts noticed some surprising things. Firstly the number of people registering as medical users claiming to be suffering from ‘pain’ (which is hard to verify objectively) rose as medical marijuana is exempt from taxes, testing regimes and other costs which apply to recreational weed. Secondly the black market has continued to thrive as it is able to by-pass taxes and tests and so undercut the price structures of the legal market
7. Modern Marijuana Is Dangerous And Very Different To That Smoked By The ‘Hippie Generation’
It is very tempting for people who lived through the ‘hippie generation’ to dismiss cannabis as a relatively harmless substance. People who smoked it will point to the fact that it did them no harm, that they matured into successful adults while those who did not might think it something undesirable but not really in the same league as ‘hard’ drugs. That may have been true in the 60s and 70s but it is manifestly not true today. The marijuana sold on the streets and in medical dispensaries is a very different drug. Nevertheless societal attitudes to marijuana are still very much driven by the impact and effects of the older form of the drug.
The main ingredient the ‘magic’ so to speak is a substance known as THC. The amount of THC in any one batch of marijuana depends, to a great extent on the type of plant used to create it and where and how it was grown with the buds of the ‘female’ plants providing the most potent cannabis of all. Analysis of the cannabis on sale today compared with that smoked many years ago shows that modern cannabis is up to 7 times stronger than the older forms. This is probably due to the fact that strains have been bred selectively to increase potency and because preparations are now more likely to be made using the more potent parts of the plant.
6. Pharmaceutical Extracts Are Available – There Is No Need To Smoke Weed
When people started to claim that marijuana had medical benefits and helped alleviate symptoms of some diseases particularly pain and nausea which can be difficult to treat effectively, research was undertake to find out exactly what substances within the plant were responsible for the effect. This research has led to the developments of certain pharmaceutical extracts based on the plant. Several different drugs are available Cesamet (used to treat vomiting caused by chemotherapy) and Marinol (to treat AIDS related weight loss) in the US and Sativex (used to treat pain) in Canada, New Zealand and some European countries. Cesamet and Marinol are THC based while Sativex combines THC with another substance called cannabidiol.
These pharmaceutical extracts cause relatively few side effects and are not likely to prove of interest to an underground, black market. As these are available there is no need to legalize marijuana itself for medical use together with all the other problems that are likely to arise out of it. Any claims by the ‘patient’ community to require marijuana in ‘pure’ form are therefore exposed for what they are – a desire to see an unpleasant and dangerous habit made legal as opposed to a crusade for patients’ rights.