In recent years a great debate has swept over America, particularly in the Western United States. The debate is over the medical acceptability of marijuana and its treatment of certain diseases and disorders such as insomnia, and glaucoma and its ability to help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.

However, while many states have passed laws allowing for it's regulated medical use, the federal government still classifies any form of cannabis as illegal and considers it to have no medical value. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the reality of the situation. Sadly, the federal government refuses to budge form it's position, putting doctors and patients in the crossfire between the federal government and the states.



The Case for Medical Marijuana

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia recognize marijuana as an effective treatment for certain medical conditions. Marijuana has been shown to be effective in minimizing the nausea felt during chemotherapy and helps patients increase their appetite. It helps alleviate the aches and pains associated with muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

It can even help patients experiencing sleep disorders get the rest that their bodies so desperately need without having to take harsh chemical sedatives. Yet, the federal government still asserts that marijuana has no medical value.

This is mostly due to the widespread fallacy that cannabis is a dangerous drug on par with narcotic substances such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and others. These substances however, carry a wide range of dangerous side effects that marijuana does not. In fact, all the health problems associated with marijuana tend to be from smoking which is in fact, not the only way to ingest cannabis. THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its effects can be ingested orally or even absorbed through the skin.

Marijuana Patient having Seizure
Colorado Medical Marijuana Patient: 15-year-old is held by her older sister while having a seizure.

A visit to a medical marijuana dispensary will reveal a whole host of perfectly benign ways to ingest the substance and reap it's benefits, such as THC lip balm, salves, creams, gums, teas and even sweet treats like cookies and hard candy. There is even a method of inhalation that uses harmless vapor, not smoke, to transmit the THC to its receptors in the body. With so many harmless ways to ingest the substance it is a wonder that medical marijuana isn't more widely accepted. With a proper public information campaign it probably could be but until then the myths of medical marijuana are likely to dominate the debate.

Federal vs. State Law

The biggest problem that the acceptance of medical marijuana faces today is federal law. Under federal law there is no accepted medical use for cannabis and it is considered illicit; classified alongside incredibly dangerous, man-made chemical substances such as cocaine and heroin. Yet, several states have passed laws allowing for the treatment of certain ailments with regulated amounts of marijuana, much the same way that patients are prescribed substances that would be completely illegal outside of medical use such as oxycontin, zolpidem, valium and other narcotic substances.



This cognitive dissonance is at the heart of the issue. If doctors are allowed under federal law to prescribe dangerous, additive and incredibly potent narcotic substances for medical use then why is a naturally occurring herb with medicinal properties completely illegal under federal law? Many states have chosen to fight back but this has only thrown fuel on the fire.

DEA raids of medical marijuana dispensaries, set up by state officials and legal under state law, have become commonplace. The federal government's position on the issue has turned doctors prescribing cannabis and patients using cannabis into criminals and there is a certain cloud of fear that hangs over anyone that participates in the perfectly legal medical marijuana programs set up by their states.

Federal law is unlikely to change in the near term and it may be that this dance between state's rights and federal law goes on forever. However, there are millions of people across the country actively campaigning for medical marijuana's acceptance by exposing the absurdity of turning people using a naturally occurring herb for medical benefit into criminals while dangerous narcotic substances are considered perfectly acceptable. As more and more states accept the medical uses of marijuana the debate widens and public perceptions begins to shift. With any luck, a robust and thorough debate will yield results favorable to those who advocate for the medicinal use of marijuana.