February 6, 2013
The Legalization of Illegal Drugs and Its Impact on American Society
America’s war on drugs may have just become a little confusing to its citizens, because on November 6th of 2012, voters in Washington State approved a law allowing the recreational use and possession of an illegal drug, Marijuana. It is known as Initiative 502 and went into effect on December 6th of 2012. How will this law ultimately affect American society as a whole? To truly grasp the impact, whether positive or negative, a better understanding of the drug and its effects must be known. Why has Marijuana been classified, alongside heroin, as a schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency? How have society’s and healthcare professional’s views changed in the time during which Marijuana was made legal for medicinal use? Cannabis Sativa, the plant from which marijuana is derived, has had many uses throughout history. Use can be traced back to ancient cultures, when the plant was first grown for the benefit of its strong fibers used to make string, rope, and paper. The seeds were utilized by some of the Chinese population to make oil used for medical purposes. (Zuardi) Historically in Europe, cannabis seeds were burned ritualistically at funerals and the vapors were inhaled for euphoric purposes. (Zuardi) The active ingredient, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, accounts for both the physical and psychotropic effects of cannabis. Physical symptoms of use include increased heart rate and fluctuations in blood pressure. Cannabis use has been associated with decreased pulmonary function, chronic obstructive airway diseases, and pulmonary infections in those who smoke it regularly. (Leung, 2011) Marijuana is also known to cause effects that include: euphoria, anxiety, psychomotor retardation, and impairment of cognition and memory.
The Controlled Substances Act administered by the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies all drugs according to a certain criteria. These criteria include: its actual or relative potential for abuse; scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect; the state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance; its history and current pattern of abuse; the scope, duration, and significance of abuse; what, if any, risk there is to the public health; its psychic or physiological dependence liability; and whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled (Title 21, 2007.) Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug as it has met these three criteria for placement: it has a high potential for abuse, it currently has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and if has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision (FDA News, 2006.) Cannabis has not yet been assessed by the US Food and Drug Administration and controlled trials are needed to determine side effects of the drug before deeming it safe to any individual (Marciano). People must know what the outcome will be when they put any substance into their body, whether negative or positive and all drugs have side effects. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and those that grow or sell it under state law, can be arrested by the federal government.
Medical marijuana was legalized in Washington State in 2007. For many of those with a terminal illness or chronic pain, this was seen as a godsend. Healthcare practitioners were given the right to authorize the use and write a prescription for those afflicted with conditions such as: nausea, vomiting, and cachexia associated with cancer, HIV-positive status, AIDS, hepatitis C, anorexia, and their treatments; severe muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and other seizure and spasticity disorders; acute or chronic glaucoma; Crohn's disease; and other forms of intractable pain (Chapter 69.51A RCW.)…