The first law in America regarding marijuana, which actually required famers to grow the plant for use in making clothes, rope, sails, and paper, was enacted in 1619 (Booth & Martin, 2003). Its uses were widely known to American farmers and settlers for generations and they capitalized upon them for economic and medical gains. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act (Controlled Substances Act, 1970) was put into place, which effectively illegalized a once widespread plant used by many. Of the many drugs available today in the United States obtained both legally and illegally, none have been viewed more acrimoniously over the years than marijuana. Marijuana is currently considered to be a Schedule I drug (DEA/Drug Scheduling, n.d., para. 3 & 4) by the DEA. The DEA also states that there is no medicinal value and that there is a high potential for abuse despite numerous studies available that show marijuana to be an invaluable medicine for many people. On top of these studies, marijuana has amassed an overwhelming and continuously growing support for legalization in the United States. Marijuana use is a personal choice and one that clearly has many benefits in today’s society. There is more to gain medically and economically through the legalization of marijuana.
The first recorded use of marijuana as a medicine dates back to 2737 B.C., in China, by Emperor Shen Nung who documented a use for the drug in treating pain brought on by rheumatism and gout (Abel, 1980). However, in today’s society marijuana is said to have no known relevance in the medical world. Despite the DEA’s current stance on marijuana and the fact that it is illegal on a federal level, there is a growing support for medical marijuana legalization in the United States with many states rallying behind their patients and legalizing the drug. According to CBS News, 83 percent of Americans today believe that doctors should be allowed to prescribe marijuana to their patients (Backus & Condon, 2012). This sentiment is echoed throughout America as more and more states adopt marijuana legislation which provides the access to an invaluable source of relief for many patients suffering from debilitating symptoms of many different serious illnesses and common ailments. Since 1996 eighteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical purposes ("ProCon.org," n.d.). Medical marijuana can be used to treat patient symptoms like chronic pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and loss of appetite as well as symptoms in patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and more ("Disabled-World," n.d.). In cancer patients the drug acts to reduce nausea and vomiting as well as working as an appetite stimulant. A study done by Canadian scientists found that potent cannabinoids given to rats actually stimulated the brain cells in the hippocampus and cause neurons to regenerate after only one month of treatment (Laurance, 2005). The research also showed that the high doses of the cannabinoid also led to anti-anxiety and anti-depressive properties leading others to question earlier studies that claimed the opposite.
One of the largest concerns about medical marijuana is how the drug is absorbed into the body, which is most commonly through smoking the drug. Booth & Martin state that it would take eight- hundred marijuana joints to kill a person, in which case they would not die from the marijuana but from carbon monoxide poisoning instead (2003). While there have been few clinical studies on the relationship between marijuana smoke inhalation and tobacco-use related cancers with results being non-definitive health officials stand by their assertions that there are indeed risks involved. Marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens, or substances that are capable of causing cancer in humans, as tobacco smoke as well as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; an active ingredient in marijuana) and CBD