Another important aspect of the medical marijuana debate that many people are not recognizing is the potential for additional revenue. States are taxing dispensaries on their sales, and adding much-needed revenue to their coffers. Another writer notes, "Colorado is now the second state, behind California, to tax and regulate medical-marijuana sales, a move that comes on the heels of the Obama administration's decision in October to leave enforcement of laws governing medical marijuana to the states" (Richardson A09). Revenue opportunities are also available to cities who license these dispensaries. Reporter Richardson continues, "Some cities have jumped on the revenue bandwagon by adding municipal taxes. Earlier this year, Oakland approved a 1.8% city tax on medical cannabis sales. Denver also plans to collect a city sales tax on medical marijuana starting in December" (Richardson A09). In tough economic times, it simply makes sense to take advantage of every revenue stream. In states where marijuana is not legal and their finances are shaky, allowing medical marijuana use just might make good economic sense for the state and the taxpayers alike.
Opponents also cite health issues associated with marijuana use as a reason not to approve medical marijuana initiatives in their states. One health expert says, "Reports of opportunistic fungal and bacterial pneumonia in AIDS patients who used marijuana suggest that marijuana smoking either suppresses the immune system or exposes patients to an added burden of pathogens" ("Top 10 Pros and Cons"). While other studies have disproved these results, the use of medical marijuana in some patients could be harmful, which is why their use must be monitored by a physician at all times. Still, more and more studies like those at the University of California are pointing to the benefits of marijuana in medicine, and as more studies continue, they may find even more uses for medical marijuana in the health care community.
Another major concern more opponents is that marijuana is a gateway drug. Another critic states, "Children who have used marijuana are more than 85 times likelier to use cocaine than children who have never used marijuana. They send the wrong message to our children" (Khatapoush, and Hallfors). However, the two authors who wrote this article dispute those claims, as they conducted their own study on the use of marijuana combined with the use of medical marijuana. Their study indicated that recreational marijuana use has stayed the same or reduced somewhat during the time that marijuana became legal for medical use in California, and that users did not report going on to harsher drugs after using marijuana. Just the opposite is true, in fact, according to their study. They found that most people who smoke marijuana, even as teens, stop smoking by their twenties or thirties (Khatapoush, and Hallfors).
There are people who theoretically support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, but believe that it should be subject to approval from the FDA. A doctor writes about other plant-based drugs in use today. He states, "Botanicals are the active ingredients in tincture of opium and belladonna suppositories, both of which are legal and FDA-approved when employed for legitimate therapeutic use. Smoked marijuana could achieve the same status were the FDA to find it safe and effective for medical use" (Cohen). The FDA's response to the debate is to the point. Another author quotes them as saying, "[T]hat it does 'not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes" (Berg 49). They have no plans to study marijuana use for medicinal purposes, or for approving that use in the future, which leads to the need for states to take the law into their own hands.
What do patients say about using medical marijuana? Perhaps the most compelling evidence supporting marijuana use is from the patients who use it. One reporter interviewed several patients and compiled their experiences. She writes of one patient, a 28-year-old who uses the drug for pain. She says, "Douglas suffers from cerebral palsy, back pain after being struck by a car when he was 14, and pain from a fractured ankle suffered in another accident. 'When I smoke, it's easier to move,' he said" (Miller). Another patient uses marijuana to treat glaucoma and other health conditions. He states, "My eye pressure is gone and I don't have the tearing and watering in my eyes. I did it because I am on all these narcotics through the Veterans Administration" (Miller). He notes that he feels better not taking the narcotics, as well. Other patients use the plant for cancer treatment and for stopping weight loss after cancer treatment, and with HIV / AIDS. Weight loss is very common in these situations, and marijuana helps a majority of these patients suffering from "wasting diseases" to gain weight and return to a healthier body.
Medical marijuana has been working in California for over 10 years, and it is working in the other thirteen states that have approved it. More studies are coming out every day that suggest marijuana is helpful for a variety of health conditions, and that it should be studied more closely and ultimately approved by the FDA. Many studies indicate it is not a gateway drug, and it is misclassified by the FDA. As more physicians and health care experts come out in favor of the drug, public opinion against it seems to be swaying. It seems safe to say that medical marijuana will gain approval in more states, bringing medical comfort to many patients who need it and cannot access it now.
In conclusion, the next step in the marijuana debate may be decriminalizing it entirely. Many proponents feel it is less harmful than cigarettes or alcohol, and decriminalizing it could open up room in America's prisons to make way for more violent offenders. It also offers the opportunity for taxation, and in many states who are suffering dramatically from the effects of the recession, it could help them balance their budgets instead of cutting critical services to those who need them the most. There has been an outcry from many to do just that, and make marijuana legal with the same restrictions as nicotine and alcohol, and if that happens, the medical marijuana debate will be moot.
Berg, Jessica. "Smokescreen: The FDA Struggles to Keep Control." The Hastings Center Report 36.4 (2006): 49.
Cohen, Peter J. "Medical Marijuana, Compassionate Use, and Public Policy: Expert Opinion or Vox Populi?" The Hastings Center Report 36.3 (2006): 19+.
Editors. "Medical Marijuana." DrugPolicy.org. 2010. 2 March 2010.
Editors. "Top 10 Pros and Cons." ProCon.org. 2009. 2 March 2010.
Editors. "What is Medical Grade Marijuana?" MedicalMarijuana.net. 2010. 2 March 2010.
Glover, Mark. "Rancho Cordova-Based Insurer Launches Medical Marijuana Coverage." Sacramento Bee. 2010. 2 March 2010.
Greene, Wallace. "Dispensing Medical Marijuana: Some Halachic Parameters." Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought 55.1-2 (2006): 28+.
Hoeffel, John. "UC Studies Find Promise in Medical Marijuana." Los Angeles Times. 2010. 2 March 2010.
Khatapoush, Shereen, and Denise Hallfors. "Sending the Wrong Message." Journal of Drug Issues 34.4 (2004): 751+.
Miller, Marla. "Medical Marijuana: Patients Laud Benefits of Controversial Drug." Muskegon Chronicle. 2010. 2 March 2010.
Richardson, Valerie. "Colorado to Tax Sales of Medical Marijuana; Another Step to Mainstream." The Washington Times (Washington, DC) 18 Nov. 2009: A09.