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Medical Marijuana - Should it stay or should it go?

Currently in the United States medical marijuana is controlled by each individual state.  Though still illegally federally, 25 out of the 50 states legally support the right to use medical marijuana, each with their own set of regulations.  The federal government leaves the states to govern themselves on this issue unless the issue becomes an interstate matter.

16 states (including Delaware, which, also has legal medical marijuana legislation) have specific laws regarding the use of cannabidiol (CBD).  CBD is one of the many ingredients found in marijuana and does not get you high.  The use of the CBD extract contains very little TCH (the stuff that gets you high) and is packaged in a variety of everyday products including water, and oil.  Think of CBD like a muscle relaxer.  It obviously makes you feel better but without giving you the euphoric feeling that marijuana produces.

So, if you do the math that leaves only 9 states left in the United States, yet to regulate medical marijuana in any way except to completely disallow it.  Even the 15 states (discounting Delaware) that have specific laws regarding the use of CBD don’t really support the use of medical marijuana because it does not contain enough TCH to have the traditional medicinal effects that marijuana produces.

North Dakota, Arkansas and Florida all have passed medical marijuana regulatory legislation on this year’s ballot.  Montana also limited restrictions on medical marijuana this year, making it easier for patients to access the drug.   Other states such as California have recreational marijuana legislation on the ballot this year, but that’s a whole other bag of moral potato chips that I’m not ready to break open yet!

Drug Testing

You should be familiar with the drug testing laws and intricacies if you plan on using medical marijuana and have to apply for a job.  Under federal law marijuana (medical or not) is still illegal.  Companies have the right to drug test you and hold you accountable for those results regardless of the state law regarding medical marijuana.  Meaning, you could not get a job or get fired from a job for using medical marijuana (not CBD, see below.)

However, some employers may look the other way if you have a qualifying disability, which allows the use of marijuana as treatment.  Employers do not have to follow the “compassionate use act” because states cannot fully legalize medical marijuana while it is still federally illegal. 

It’s honestly pretty complicated, but to simplify; if you use medical marijuana it will show up on a drug test and it can be held against you.  If you have a qualifying disability and a prescription of marijuana the employer may choose to look the other way, but they certainly don’t have to.

Another important thing to note is that CBD will not show up on your drug test.  Most drug tests screen by taking urine samples that are scanned for THC (the psychoactive element in marijuana responsible for producing the euphoria associated with marijuana use), among other drugs.

Pros and cons of medical marijuana

Research and medical opinion can favor either side of this argument depending on your source.  Neither tends to lie, but sometimes facts refute each other and some facts are highlighted more than others depending on the interest or belief of the doctor, researcher or writer.

Pain Relief and Medicinal Qualities

Pro

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has said, “With regard to pain alone, marijuana could greatly reduce the demand for narcotics and simultaneously decrease the number of accidental painkiller overdoses, which are the greatest cause of preventable death in this country.” There is no known overdose amount and it is easily dosed in a variety of ways. Ok, those are good points; to which many other well-respected physicians agree. Additionally, research generally shows that marijuana is a safe and effective way to manage pain.

Marijuana also helps with the nausea, vomiting and discomfort associated with many diseases including cancer and chemotherapy. It is a drug that not only helps with nausea but also increases appetites (see: munchies).

Con

Other research shows that marijuana has no analgesic (pain-killing) effect.  Simply put, the euphoria (the feeling of being high) masks the pain for a temporary amount of time.  Now that doesn’t seem too bad, but according to medical researchers this feeling of being high on marijuana is similar to the euphoric feeling that harder, more addictive narcotic drugs produce. As well, they claim even more effective pain relief can be found in already existing prescription drugs.  Many doctors and researchers cite lack of consistent and quality evidence of marijuana’s medicinal effects as reason for not supporting the legalization or prescription of marijuana.

Addictiveness of Marijuana

Pro

Hard to write a pro point under addiction, but since we were just talking about it, let’s explore this talking point further.  Only 9-10% of users ever experience a psychological dependence on marijuana, but there is no evidence of true addiction according to some researchers.  As well, many of these same researchers state that there are no documented symptoms of withdrawal associated with the terminating use of the drug.

Con

Research on this side of the table also uses the 9-10% statistic to show that it can be addictive, but paints a much worse picture for those 9-10%.  Here’s why; advocates on this side of the table recognize a withdrawal syndrome associated with discontinuing of marijuana use.  Symptoms include touchiness, anxiety and, difficultly sleeping among others. 

As well, the earlier in life you begin your marijuana use, and the more often you consume it in the early days of your usage, the more likely you are to become addicted.  It’s a costly addiction and side effects of chronic marijuana use include, the decline of motor and brain function as well as an apathetic attitude and loss of productivity. 

Kids!?

Kids have been approved to use marijuana with TCH and CBD extract as approved treatment for qualifying diseases or disabilities in states with legal marijuana laws.

Pro

It’s hard to think of kiddos getting high on marijuana.  But, it’s also hard to think of a kid having a seizure in front of his friends at school due to his untreated epilepsy.  Even states that have super restrictive marijuana laws, (many which specify which diseases are worthy of a medical marijuana prescription) almost all (besides Texas) include epilepsy on the list of marijuana-approved diseases. 

Research and trials have shown significant reduction in the number of seizures children have had since medicating with marijuana.  Marijuana is surprisingly effective in helping to treat treatment-resistant epilepsy.  Most kids aren’t smoking joints on the side of the schoolyard.  They are being given oil, ingested orally, administered by their parents and in some cases even school nurses! 

The “smoke is harmful for your lungs” argument is a moot point in 2016, because there are so many different ways to medicate with marijuana without smoking.

Con

Like I said before, it’s kind of hard to imagine our kids getting using marijuana regardless of the circumstance.   On this side of the argument researchers don’t deny the positive effects marijuana has had in remedying hard to treat epilepsy in kids, but tout the negative statistics of the effects of marijuana on the developing brain.  Many doctors believe marijuana alters the actual development of the brain and has many undesirable psychological effects.  There aren’t many arguments on this side of the discussion, but it’s not because of a lack of effort, rather the strength in each point.

Experience of legalization of medical marijuana

What effects caused the use of medical marijuana in states where it is already legal?

Pro

Studies show that states that have medical marijuana laws have seen a drop in violent crimes and fatal traffic accidents.

Con

Studies show in states with medical marijuana laws there has been an increase marijuana use (duh).

Conclusion

Even if you have a prescription for legal pot you could still face consequences if your job drug tests. 

It’s up to you to decide if marijuana’s medicinal effects are worth the baggage that comes with it, but medical marijuana seems to be less of a taboo in 2016 than it was in the past.  Adult, kids and seniors are using it as a form of pain relief and to treat other symptoms associated with debilitating diseases.

The image of teenagers lighting up joints, smoking bongs and getting high should not be associated with medical marijuana.  Rather, think of kids cancer stricken and bed ridden in hospitals taking small droppers of CBD or medical marijuana to enable them to keep their food down.  Of course some people still smoke it, but it’s not going down like that in hospitals across the states. 

Still, the thought of kids using marijuana in any form can scare parents, teachers and doctors alike.  So here we are in 2016, with more and more states getting less and less restrictive with medical marijuana laws.  Is it a good thing, or a dangerous thing?  

Medical marijuana remains a hot button issue here in the states, and around the world.  So, where do you stand on this topic? 

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