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Medical Marijuana, Legitimate Treatment or Excuse to Get High?

Updated on August 20, 2015
Sherry Hewins profile image

I have always been interested in health issues and healing. I am an obsessive researcher and label reader.

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The Law and Medical Marijuana

Twenty-three states in the US have passed laws allowing Marijuana to be used as a medical treatment. Each state has it's own limitations on how the medicine can be obtained and how much can be grown or possessed. Some states have specific conditions that cannabis can be used to treat, others leave it entirely to the discretion of the patient's doctor.

In spite of these State laws, Federal law still considers Marijuana to be a Schedule I substance which means it is deemed to present a high risk for abuse, it has not been found safe to use, and it is not recognized as having any medicinal value. So, patients who use medical marijuana are in a bit of a legal gray area.

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These states have enacted legislation that allows use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

States Where Cannabis is Legal for Recreational Use

  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Oregon
  • Alaska

What's Your Opinion on Medical Marijuana?

Do you support the use of Medical Marijuana?

See results

But Does Medical Marijuana Really Work?

Proponents of medical cannabis say it is a safe and natural herb that can treat symptoms of disease ranging from cancer and AIDS to anxiety and insomnia.

Opponents claim that it's too dangerous to use, it is not FDA approved and it's benefits are unsubstantiated. They fear that it can lead to harder drug use, have a corrupting influence on youth and many claim that medical use is often only a front for recreational use of marijuana.

California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, with its headquarters at UC San Diego, was established to study whether marijuana has therapeutic value. The center also conducted studies Sacramento and San Francisco to assess the value of cannabis as medicine.

This groundbreaking research on medical marijuana has brought new scientific data to the controversial topic of medical marijuana. The state funded project was approved in 1999, three years after California became the first state to pass a law allowing the use of medical marijuana in 1996. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research spent over 8 million dollars on the comprehensive research. It found that marijuana may be beneficial for patients suffering from nerve damage, HIV, and strokes among other things.

Seven trials have been completed as of 2012 and California researchers have found that cannabis does have value in medical therapy. Separate clinical trials were conducted by Dr. Donald Abrams at UC San Francisco and Dr. Ronald Ellis at UC San Diego on HIV and AIDS patients who were suffering from nerve damage. Both studies found that patients got relief from their pain using pot, even when they were already using prescription drugs for pain.

Director of the MS center at UC San Diego, Jody Corey-Bloom, found that patients using medical cannabis achieved significant relief from the pain of spasticity.


Medical Marijuana Without the High

Dr. Barth Wilsey conducted a study to determine whether pain relief could be achieved with marijuana without the the patient getting high. Wilsey found that patients with discomfort from nerve damage achieved comparable relief from pot with the psychoactive ingredients reduced or removed. Wilsey is embarking on a new study on the effect of cannabis on patients with spinal cord injury. It's being funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Even after all these studies, which showed promise for the medical value of cannabis, federal agencies put most of their support behind studies concerned with marijuana abuse rather than any possible medical benefits.

While federal authorities were cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California in 2013, some researchers were wondering if any progress had been made in the quest to document the medical value of cannabis. Dr. Abrams has been quoted as saying "I don't think science drives the train here. It's a difficult environment at the current time to obtain funding."

© 2012 Sherry Hewins

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    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      It apparently works for lots of people, but the real question is this:

      "Why, in a supposedly free country, do we tell adults what they can and cannot put into their own bodies?"

      I support freedom, including the right to burn your silly brains out on whatever drug you like, as long as you do not violate my rights by using it, or expect me to bail you out if you get hooked

      Good Hub, Sherry!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
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      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks for the comment WillStarr. I agree with you, but I guess it's a separate question. After all there are a lot of regulated drugs that are FDA approved, but require a prescription. Should we be able to self-medicate with those drugs? I guess I would have to say I would support legalization of pot for recreational use, but that's a long way off I think.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "After all there are a lot of regulated drugs that are FDA approved, but require a prescription. Should we be able to self-medicate with those drugs?"

      Lots of countries do just that, and, if we are really a free people, we should be able to use anything, even if it's stupid. It wasn't all that long ago that all drugs were legal, and there were less users and abusers then than there are now!

      I would still support doctors prescribing the correct med and dosage, but more than that, I support freedom and liberty.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I don't smoke. But I can smell a rat. I did smoke when I was being treated for cancer. They had good drugs for the nausea and vomitting, but the only drug that made we want to eat was the reefer. I went from about 220 down to about 120. Who knows without the weed.

    • ErinElise profile image

      Erin 4 years ago from Near Sacramento, California

      Living in California, (like many other people), I have witnessed what I will call the medical marijuana "fiasco" from the time voters approved Prop. 215 to present. (To me, fiasco seems appropriate -- I don't know what to call it and of course don't want to offend anyone.)

      Over these past several years, the status of medical marijuana has gone from being legal with cannabis "dispensaries" cropping up on practically every street corner in every city of California to present day with most of them being ordered to close their doors. It's like the proposition never existed. The State Government seems to be under pressure from the Federal Government so there are changes in the works on how it will all be administered and by whom.

      There are many people that benefit greatly from the use of medical cannabis. Unfortunately, there are probably just as many or more people just using it as an excuse to get high. (But, I think that some people feel it is more like a license or a permit to get high anytime and any place rather than an excuse. Or maybe both.)

      Marijuana helps many people with a number of symptoms from chronic pain, stomach aches, period cramps, anxiety, stress, just to name a few. It's a known fact that prescription pain relievers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, etc., can be (are) highly addictive. Withdrawals can be pretty severe depending on the amount of pills and length of time a time a person has taken them. There are many physical withdrawal symptoms when a person stops taking these medications and apparently the symptoms are pretty bad.

      In contrast, a even a person who stops "medicating" with marijuana, no matter what the dosage or for how long, doesn't become addicted in the same way. Withdrawal symptoms are minimum with some discomfort, possible irritability, etc., but there aren't the physical symptoms like the withdrawals from pain medications and other drugs.

      If people want to get high, and they are using marijuana as an excuse, isn't that better than them using other drugs to get high and then becoming addicted?

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      If it works, it works. There are a number of studies that show proof that marijuana works, yet the government fights and makes it difficult for people to receive treatment. Granted, some people would use their prescription as a legal way to get high. But, people do that now with other prescriptions that are legal.

      I wonder where the government's head is when they are approving and disapproving drugs. Look at how they approved the use of alcohol and cigarettes. Unlike with marijuana, studies have shown that alcohol and cigarettes have severe adverse consequences when used in excess. Yet, these substances have been approved and they don't provide any type of medical advantage whatsoever.

      My only contention with the passage of marijuana usage is that people have a tendency to get relaxed about how they use substances. Right now, I get absolutely angry when people smoke cigarettes in front of entrances to buildings. Even when they are not standing in front of the building, the wind seems to blow the smoke right at my face. I don't say anything to these folks because I know they have a right to smoke. But, what about my right NOT to smoke? I'm healthy and I don't want to contract lung cancer from secondhand smoke. I see the same thing happening with marijuana users. I'm healthy and smoke is smoke. I don't want to contract lung cancer from secondhand smoke, not to mention, I don't want to get high from secondhand smoke.

      As angry as I would be that someone would be inconsiderate about their use of marijuana, I would not stand in the way of passing a law that allows it to be used as medical treatment.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

      I've personally seen marijuana used as a medication and it was very beneficial to the patient in both instances. I have to agree with Will Starr -- if something is beneficial -- well, supposedly this is a free country and I'd like to see us remain so. Best/Sis

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks for your comment MarleneB. I'm surprised I haven't got any comments yet against the medical use of marijuana. I would hope people would still be discreet with their use.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
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      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks Sis, I'm all for freedom.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      ErinElise: I see you're not too far from me. It sure has been a wild ride as you say. People were so free about it, like it was completely legal, then suddenly the area was being buzzed by helicopters and people were being rousted for driving into certain neighborhoods. I'm sure it's all about money. Can't they see all that stuff from satellites anyway, why do they even need those noisy, expensive helicopters?

    • ErinElise profile image

      Erin 4 years ago from Near Sacramento, California

      Hi Sherry,

      Oh, wow! That's so cool that we're not to far away from each other!

      Yes, things are so different now compared to a few years ago. You're right, those helicopters are noisy and expensive! I agree, can't they just use satellites? You're right, I'm sure it's all about money too.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I have heard from several friends who have cancer. They smoke marijuana for their pain. I don't blame them either. Doctors and the medical profession will never say it's good because there is too much money to be made in the prescription drug industry.

      Great Hub, Sherry. I voted it UP, etc.etc.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks mary615. It seems like it's especially good for cancer patients because it helps with their appetite. I appreciate the votes.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I'm in favor of legalizing it all, which would instantly bankrupt the drug lords and get rid of most gangs. When it was once legal, we had no more addicts than we have today. In addition, legal drugs would be cheap, so no one needs to rob or steal to pay for it.

      It's a win-win.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      OK then, sounds good to me. WillStarr for president! You've got my vote.

    • Sallier profile image

      Sallier 4 years ago

      i think it's the conservative base that stops the legalization of marijuana. the only thing marijuana does is mellow people out and makes food and cigarettes taste better. as soon as those in power stop fearing the Right, it will be legalized. the movement is slow going, but it's going nonetheless. i think in about 10 years, marijuana will be legal for all and not just for medicinal purposes. Go 420!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      BTW, California is learning that most 'medical' marijuana customers are actually just potheads. While some do need it, most are simply dopers.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
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      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I thought you were OK with that Will Starr

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
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      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I actually think it's the marijuana growers that had a lot to do with voting down legalization for recreational use in CA. Partly because they feared competition from big agribusiness type growers, and partly because they feared crackdown by the Feds. The feds seem to be cracking down anyway, despite the fact that President Obama said it would be a low priority.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      "I thought you were OK with that Will Starr"

      Oh, I am! But let's be honest in our efforts. Instead of claiming that it's for medical purposes, let's tell the truth...it's our right as a free people!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Sometimes you can lose your freedom by being honest.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Maybe, but we still have to stand up for what is right and just, or we'll have nothing.

      BTW, I'm impressed with the way you think.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have known some pot heads so I don't condone it and have no interest in it but if we legalized it just like alcohol; look how many people we would put out of business. I bet the country would make a lot on that and why not, all the billions we give Mexico to fight drugs (like I believe that is where it really went) has sure not done any good. I agree with Will, because they are going to fry their brains anyway, so why not make it a safer place for it to be happening and have some benefit from it?

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the conversation Jackie Lynnley.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      You are most welcome Ma'am!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Since marijuana has been proven to help patients in many cases, my vote goes to making it easy to acquire it for those reasons. Just think of all the drugs that have been FDA approved and are later found to carry significant adverse affects! As to legislating against it...it would appear we have lost that war. It continues to be grown and sold no matter what the laws of the land happen to be. Voted up and interesting.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks for commenting and voting Peggy W. I think you are right, the war on drugs, especially marijuana was lost long ago. Yet, the government continues to spend billions of dollars on it each year.

    • neophonic profile image

      Jakub Dubec 4 years ago from Europe

      I Really LOVE to get high instead of getting drunk. I don't know anybody who has been aggressive, intoxicated nearly to death or killed somebody by riding a car under Marijuana. Alcohol rapes, kills, but it is legal and able to buy on every corner - why? Taxes to government?

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Well, be careful neophonic. It doesn't sound like you're using cannabis as medicine. What are the law like there in the Czech Republic?

    • neophonic profile image

      Jakub Dubec 4 years ago from Europe

      There is legal personal use (up to 5 grams). Growing up to 5 plants per person is not legal, but also it is not crime - is it misdemeanour and many people are growing only for personal use to make homemade tea, ointments, tinctures.. but also for smoking.

      Here, where safety-catch for alcohol addicts was found ( what a prime ), there is no medical marijuana and many grannies were sent nearly to jail only because marijuana ointments helped them to cure their diseases.

      Today, over 10 people died due to methanol in alcohol drinks. For 10 years, nobody died due to wrong use of marijuana.

    • DeAnn Dodd profile image

      DeAnn Dodd 4 years ago from Bakersfield, California

      What is the difference between marijuana being used for medical purposes and other drugs such as vicodin, norco, mophine or Tylenol with codeine? My personal belief is that it all boils down to social morays and has absolutely nothing to do with science or what is medically beneficial for people, much like the social morays that prevented the integration of African american children into white schools. Until people can get over their prejudices that they have been taught we can never move on as a society, to what is best for all of us. Will there be abuse of marijuana? Yes, of course, just like there is abuse of other legally prescribed drugs, we just need to treat marijuana like the others, then and only then will the abuse be lessened.

    • Vinodkpillai profile image

      Vinodkpillai 4 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      According to me the debate surrounding marijuana should primarily focus on what the active ingredients do to our body and the benefits we can derive vs costs. Then the other issues will become easy to resolve. Nice hub. Voted up and interesting

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      It seems that the actual medical value of marijuana has little to do with the debate here in California. It's all about the economic and social issues. Most government funding for research is focused on proving the detrimental effects, so empirical information is hard to come by. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • profile image

      Sophia Angelique 4 years ago

      It doesn't really matter. People who want to smoke it should be able to smoke it. The financial cost of fighting drug cartels and imprisoning people is simply too high.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Well, I agree with you there Sophia Angelique. It will be interesting to see what happens in Washington and Colorado with their newly approved laws about marijuana for recreational use. So far though, California voters have not such a law in, and of course federal law is still against use of marijuana for any reason. The war against marijuana seems such a waste of money, manpower and prison space, not to mention the negative effect it has on individual lives.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Irwin 4 years ago from The Great Northwest

      well we are no longer far from legalizing it for recreational purposes. I live in WA state and it was just passed. I'm not thrilled. Most of the people on this comment section are older-ish and may not have young kids to worry about. Yes, I worry because ther eis already alcohol and smoking I'd like to detour them from, but now there is cyber bullies, sexting...and you want to add in marijuana? What happens is "responsible" adults say it's fine, I use it then their kids get a hold of it and they do not know how to control it.

      I had two friends in high school who smoked it and both ended up in jail...not for "non-violent" crimes, but while they were smoking weed one burglarized and the other threatened someone with a stolen gun (separate occasions). Also my husband went to jail for not remembering if he was involved in a crime or not (pretty scary) but someone was stabbed at a party and someone said he was involved and he could not defend himself so he served 1.5 yrs (before we met). It took him 15 years to get his life back on track. The adult types are saying go for it, but when young ones get a hold of it (it will be easier to access) they don't have the maturity to handle it well or responsibly. I think older people who OK it are being selfish.

      It kills brain cells and causes the munchies. can you say obesity epidemic and stupid people?

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
      Author

      Sherry Hewins 4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      izetti: I'm sorry to hear about all of your troubles. I hope all is well with your family now. I think is is very unusual to lose all memory of an event because of being stoned on pot. I don't know how it is in Washington, but here where I live marijuana is very common and easy to get. I doubt that making it legal would make it any more so. You have raised some valid concerns, I will be interested to see what happens in Washington and Colorado with the changes in the law.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared.

      Thank you for sharing these authoritative facts that confirm that medical marijuana is effective.

      There is no good sense reason why getting high on marijuana or hashish should not be legal if sensibly regulated. I doubt if I myself would use cannabis if it were legal. As a writer, I prefer having a clear mind to getting high or drunk. But long ago and far away I knew adult persons who both drank booze and smoked pot responsibly (seldom at the same time), at the hosts' home, as a social recreation, with enough hours ahead for the effect to wear off before going to work and with at least one booze and drug free adult present to care for children and see that all was well. If pot were legal, its purity and potency could be tested and known. It is illogical and immoral for marijuana use (or even for addictive drug use) to be a crime with insanely extreme penalties instead of being considered, like boozing, alcoholism, and nicotine addiction, a foolish choice and for some at times a health and/or social problem, mitigated through regulations and programs. Neither potheads nor drug addicts are really criminals and neither should ever be regarded and treated as such.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 10 months ago from Europe

      It is the THC that makes people stoned. Medical cannabis is about CBD, another cannabinoid that doesn't make you high. Did you do any research?

    • Sherry Hewins profile image
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      Sherry Hewins 10 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Many medical cannabis patients do use marijuana that is high in THC as well as CBD. In fact, I would venture to say that most do.

      This is partially because most of the marijuana available in dispensaries, at least here in the "Emerald Triangle" of California, are high in THC. When a doctor gives a recommendation for medical cannabis, he does not specify that it should be low in THC, at least that is my experience.

      As I have pointed out in my article, there has not been that much research done on the true medical benefits of cannabis, simply because the US government does not choose to fund such research.

      So, some may simply put up with being high to get relief from their pain, or some may say they are in pain to get the high. Thus, the question in my title.

      On the other hand, THC may also be beneficial to some conditions. AIDs patients may benefit from the appetite stimulation (the munchies).

    • Carollynne-Farion profile image

      Carollynne-Farion 2 months ago from Toronto, Canada

      I think its a little hard to listen to the biased opinion of the pharma companies, and health criteria ( as its well known your country is in bed with big pharma) ... In pain to get high? I think its more of a question of stress management for most who you would deem, "abusing" the plant, its a far better alternative to smoking ciggs and drinking. There will always be people who abuse substances, but as we note now that addiction is illness, not Marijuana's fault. And those people would seek out other forms of addiction regardless, Why not a natural plant that has roots in spirituality?

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