Medical Marijuana – Where Do You Stand?

by Sue Taggart

Should marijuana be a medical option? This question raises fierce debate and is as hotly contested as the current political race to the White House. But why? We are not talking about legalizing the use of marijuana for the general US population, rather making it available to those in chronic pain via a doctor’s prescription. Now, we all know that prescription medication is wide open to abuse, but why should a small number of people have to suffer because of the irresponsible actions of others. Many cancer drugs are rushed through the FDA approval process on the premise that people should not suffer (and die) needlessly if a drug that may help them. The difference it seems with marijuana, is that it has been a recreational drug, widely used in the hippie days of the 70’s and according to some can lead to more serious drug use. Well, this is hardly a concern of the terminally ill cancer or AIDS patient, not to be flip about it, but their days are numbered, so that argument really doesn’t stand up. Or, maybe the drug companies can’t make money on it.

Whatever the reason, it’s interesting to see how evenly divided our “leaders” are on the topic.

The Responses of 10 US Surgeons General 1961 to Present on the question” Should marijuana be a medical option?”

Regina M Benjamin 2009 – Present Not Clearly Pro or Con
Richard H. Carmona 2002 – 2006 Not Clearly Pro or Con (was Previously Con)
David Satcher 1998 – 2002 Con
M. Joycelyn Elders 1993 – 1994 Pro
Antonia C. Novello 1990 – 1993 No Position Found
C. Everett Koop 1982 – 1989 Con
Julius B. Richmond 1977 – 1981 No Position Found
Jesse L. Steinfeld 1969 – 1973 Now Pro
William H. Stewart 1965 – 1969 No Position Found
Luther L. Terry 1961 – 1965 No Position Found


The 2012 Presidential Election Candidates when asked the same question responded as follows:

Democrat Barak Obama Pro
Republican Mitt Romney Con
3rd Party/Independents Virgil Goode Con
Gary Johnson Pro
Jill Stein Pro


When the argument against medical marijuana turns to the availability of pain management from current sources, those sources most certainly bear greater scrutiny. The most common medications on the market for pain relief have resulted in thousands of fatalities, yet they are continuously purchased as OTC’s (Over The Counter Drugs) or prescribed by doctors with little to no attention paid to their serious side effects. Pain medications and adverse drug reactions are the forth leading cause of death in the US, only behind heart disease, cancer and strokes.

Salicylates Asprin

While offering many positive health benefits, Aspirin needs to be taken very carefully. Higher doses or prolonged usage of low doses can, even in the buffered firm, double your likelyhood of perforated ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding

Acetaminophen Tylenol

Each year, more than 50,000 people are reported to visit emergency rooms due to acetaminophen overdoses. It is also the leading cause (close to 50%) of acute liver failure.

Opiate-based Pain Meds Vicodin, Percocet, Percodan, Lorcet, Norco, oxycodone

While these strong pain meds are very effective at knocking out pain, they have serious consequences. 16,000 people died in one year in the US from drug overdoes, a high percentage of which was caused by opiates.

NSAID’s Advil, Aleve, naproxen, ibuprofen

Chronic pain is often treated with NSAID’s, from arthritis to neck pain, NSAID’s are commonly prescribed. Roughly 16,600 people die each year from NSAID related complications and prolonged use can result in gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding

Cox-2 Inhibitors Celebrex, celecoxib

In research studying the drug’s potential as an anti-cancer drug, the National Cancer Institute reported that those taking a 400mg dose had a 250% greater risk of dying from a hart attack or stroke and in those taking a 800mg dose the risk increased to 340%

So basically, ALL drugs come with a risk, is marijuana a greater or lesser risk?

According to some NO, according to others YES!

On March 26, 2004 former US Sugeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD was quoted in the Providence Journal as stating that “The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS—or by the drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed Marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”

Tipping the scale in the “Con” camp, Bill Frist, MD and former US Senator (R-TN) in correspondence to on October 20, 2003 said that, “Although I understand many believe marijuana is the most effective drug in combating their medical ailments, I would caution against this assumption due to the lack of date available to prove marijuana’s medical benefits. Based on current evidence, I believe that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that there are less dangerous medicines offering the same relief from pain and other medical symptoms”.

As many people support the use of medical marijuana, the same number can be found who are against it. Right now it’s legal in 17 states including: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. And, as of August 22, 2012 there are seven states pending; Arkansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

But who knows how long it will take for the other 26 to follow, if they ever do?

There really should be no “moral” reason to prevent the use of marijuana for genuine medical reasons, no more than preventing the use of opiate pain meds or NSAIDS. Of course it would be ideal if substances could be found that are effective and pose no risk whatsoever, but until then, how can we deny people who are suffering chronic pain every day of their lives, a substance that seemingly causes less harm than many drugs currently approved by the FDA and prescribed daily by the medical profession.

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