Marijuana is the second most abused substance in the United States, after tobacco, as per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This is in part due to policies that regulate the consumption and distribution of marijuana. Until recently, marijuana consumption and distribution were illegal in all states, but a shift in policies resulted in the legalization of cannabis in over 18 states. A recent report published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) showcased that over 11.8 million young adults were marijuana users in the U.S. The report showed that marijuana use is dominant among adolescents, and it is more prevalent in men than women. With such statistics and negative publicity surrounding marijuana use, the benefits of marijuana use (even for medicinal purposes) have been marginalized over the years. Marijuana usage has long been associated with a high rate of aggressive conduct among adolescents (Klieger et al., 2017). Due to this stigma, the medical benefits of marijuana are not taught in medical schools, and practitioners are not permitted to prescribe medicinal marijuana to patients. By looking at the advantages of cannabis, the public’s perception of the drug may change for the better, and the drug will be accepted for widespread medical use.
Marijuana’s Negative History
Prior to the dawn of the 20th century, marijuana was available in pharmacies across the nation. The drug was principally used to treat a variety of ailments afflicting citizens (Mennis, 2020). It was not until 1911 that the government attempted and failed to prohibit the medical marijuana use. The era was characterized by the worldwide opium pandemic. Governments throughout the world enacted prohibition laws to contain the opium crisis. During the aforementioned period, there was also a spike in the rate of immigration across the country. Mexico accounts for the lion’s share of the country’s immigrants. Their entry into the country ushered in a new era of cultural dissemination. The majority of immigrants established marijuana gardens in their neighborhoods. The immigrants referred to the plant as “marihuana” in this period (Han et al., 2018). Americans’ ignorance and apprehension about immigrants made them an easy target for propaganda.
As a result of the influx of immigrants, crime rates rose in neighborhoods populated by immigrants. Without an identifiable cause for the increase in crime in areas populated by immigrants, police officers and local governments blamed the increase on “marihuana” in a series of racial attacks on the immigrants. According to rumors that spread quickly in the state, Mexicans were allegedly distributing “killer weed” to children in Texas. The rhetoric during this period was that the Mexicans were trying to corrupt the behaviors of the innocent Texan children (D’Amico et al., 2018). Due to widespread fear of immigrants, Texas enacted the 1914 Harrison Narcotic Tax Act to curtail cannabis distribution.
During prohibition, the majority of people substituted cannabis for alcohol. This continued until prohibition was repealed, at which point the government concentrated all of its resources and energy on criminalizing marijuana use and distribution. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was established to enforce the policies enlisted in Harrison’s Act. The attacks on marijuana were based on racial grounds where the African American and Latino communities were blamed for the marijuana endemic. As a result of racial animosity against marijuana, the plant gained broad contempt across the nation, as Caputi and Humphreys (2018) argued. The duo blame the all-out negative publicity of marijuana on Aslinger. In 1936, with the release of the film “Reefer Madness,” cannabis propaganda reached its zenith. The film depicted a variety of adolescents indulging in marijuana use. This was followed by a nexus of unlucky events designed to scare young adults away from marijuana consumption. The film portrayed marijuana as an initiation drug that was used at various racially targeted parties, such as jazz parties, and was deemed dangerous for consumption.
Negative Misconception about Cannabis Usage
The primary misconception about cannabis usage is that it is a gateway drug for other hard drugs. Most parents warn their teenage children to avoid the use of cannabis as it is a gateway drug into other hard drugs that may have a significant impact on their lives. This rhetoric on the subject of marijuana usage has been the primary node to foster its restrictive usage. Certain politicians, such as Andrew Cuomo, have used the gateway theory to justify enacting policies restricting its use and distribution. Several pieces of research marred with conspiracy theories and biased perspectives show that 99% of people abusing hard drugs trace their origins to alcohol and marijuana abuse (Evanoff et al., 2017). The reality of the matter is that there has been no substantiated evidence that shows the relationship between marijuana use and the use of other hard drugs.
An exhaustive inquiry committee was created in 2018 by the previous government to assess the impact cannabis had on society. Their findings did not link cannabis use to any hard drugs in the market. This narrative is tarnished by pseudo-facts that have no empirical evidence. For instance, statistics show that people who currently indulge in the abuse of hard drugs have abused marijuana and alcohol at a point in their lives. This is the same for people that are addicted to caffeine, cigarettes, and other mainstream abused substances (D’Amico et al., 2018). With such arguments, the redundancy of the gateway narrative can be put to rest. The gateway narrative contains numerous flaws that preclude them from concluding that cannabis is a gateway drug.
As mentioned previously, another widespread misconception is that cannabis contributes to violent crime. The anti-legalization faction always points out an association between cannabis usage and violent crimes. With the mainstream legalization of cannabis usage for medical and recreational purposes, the anti-legalization faction predicted that there would be a rise in violent crimes such as murder and first-degree assaults (Klieger et al., 2017). The majority of prohibitionists have failed to establish a causal relationship between marijuana use and the prevalence of psychosis, which results in violent crime. Others have attempted to establish a link between marijuana use and mass shootings, but without success. There has been an isolated documented causal relationship between extreme marijuana usage and psychosis among teenagers. But, testing the causality between the two variables is an extremely difficult task to replicate in an empirical study. Scholars such as D’Amico et al. 2018 have tried to establish the relationship between marijuana usage and increased criminal activities. Researchers have conducted rigorous assessments of crime within the United States, and no palatable evidence was discovered on the link between cannabis and violent crimes. This debunks the crime narrative of prohibitionists with unsubstantiated evidence on the subject matter.
Following the government’s efforts to legalize marijuana, opponents have stated that the move is a recipe for public health disaster. Medical groups expressed their worries that the legalization would lead to increased teenage drug abuse in the country (Mennis, 2020). Police groups have also expressed their fear of what the policy change will do for fatal traffic accidents. These are some of the claims the pro-legalization faction had to face in pushing for the legalization of marijuana. Years later, there has been little to no change in the state of traffic fatalities and teenage drug abuse. Research has shown that the legalization of marijuana has posed no threat to the public health system. Instead, preliminary reports have shown that the legalization of marijuana has led to decreased opioid fatalities (Mennis, 2020). The net impact of cannabis legalization is a positive trend towards ending the opioid endemic and reduced sick leaves.
With the majority of their claims debunked by empirical evidence, prohibitionists have turned to cannabis’s potency as a reason to prohibit its use. Prohibitionists have argued that the potency of THC has significantly increased over time. They claim that adaptation and relative cross-breeding of species has resulted in cannabis with increased potency and thus psychosis danger. With THC being the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, most prohibitionists argue that its increased potency can cause harm to the human body or others. On the other hand, advocates for marijuana have made a compelling case that increased potency is advantageous to the consumer (Mennis, 2020). With increased potency, consumers can achieve the same high as they had previously with limited consumption. Researchers have debunked the myth of increased THC concentration in cannabis. Studies conducted by Klieger et al. (2017) discovered that THC’s concentration could not exceed 100%, thereby disproving the assessment of prohibitionists. Additionally, recent research has demonstrated that stronger strains of marijuana are not always associated with a psychotic reaction in consumers. Due to the controversy and fraud plaguing the beleaguered potency industry, the potency levels indicated in cannabis are superfluous. Numerous strains of cannabis extracts, on the other hand, are beneficial to patients without the psychoactive effect of THC. Among these extracts is cannabidiol (CBD).
The Development of Cannabidiol (CBD)
With the legalization of marijuana, technology has led to improved technology in extracting various components of marijuana. Marijuana has over 100 active components in its chemical composition. The primary active agent in its system is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical component is responsible for the impaired judgment and alteration of consciousness by the user. CBD is extracted from hemp, and its components have little to no THC (Evanoff et al., 2017). This implies that it has reduced mind alteration properties. Patients that have been prescribed doses of CBD have reported little to no alteration in their cognitive functioning.
CBD has numerous functions, and it is utilized in various forms. The most common utility module for CBD is edibles. But the drug also appears in the form of capsules and creams. Recent research conducted by Klieger et al. (2017) showcases that CBD helps reduce stress and induce relaxation in patients. CBD has also been approved as a sleep inducer. These are just a few of the advantages of using CBD medicinally. Patients prefer CBD with a low THC content because it has a sedative effect without the hallucinogenic and other ‘negative’ effects associated with marijuana with high THC concentrations. With such potential, there is increased research on the mainstream adoption of CBD in anxiety disorder treatment. Scholars such as Sarvet et al. (2018) have delved deeper into researching the possible utility of marijuana in neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Even though TCH and CBD have similar structural components, they have a striking difference in how they react with the brain, and thus their psychoactive impact is differentiated. While THC binds to cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors to create a sense of euphoria for users, CBD does not bind to the aforementioned receptor. Consequently, it does not produce the sense of euphoria TCH concentrated users feel. CBD is effective in the management of depression and seizures. For patients that do not like the psychoactive impact of THC, a CBD prescription can be an effective management regimen for their ailments (Caputi & Humphreys, 2018). Even though the two components of cannabis are different, they have similar usage apart from causing euphoria, as reviewed above.
Medical Benefits of Cannabis
Since its legalization, marijuana has increased in popularity as a pain reliever. Most patients prefer utilizing cannabis instead of addictive opioids. Marijuana has been found to relieve various forms of chronic pain stemming from inflammation and nerve damage. Studies have shown that chronic pain affects more people in the U.S. than cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases combined. It is among the most ubiquitous causative agents of long-term disability in the U.S. There are several strains of cannabis with different impacts on the user. With the help of a doctor, patients can determine the best strain for managing their chronic pain. Limited research on strains and their utility has made it virtually impossible for medical practitioners to prescribe specific strains for the various intensity of chronic pain (Han, et al., 2018). The various types of strain are effective for recreational users who have different intentions for using cannabis. Recreational users favor strains that produce a strong euphoric high with only a small amount of cannabis consumed. Patients can experiment with different strains to find the one that best suits their needs. Its recent legalization has facilitated research. However, there is a dearth of research on the effect of cannabis’ strains on chronic pain. Existing research attempts to follow users throughout their daily lives to ascertain which strains work best for them.
Improved Lung Capacity
Most drugs consumed through smoking have been shown to have detrimental effects on the users’ lungs. Cigarettes have the most detrimental effect, since they decrease users’ lung capacity. Prior to the discovery of cannabis’s effect on respiratory health, prohibitionists argued that it had similar effects to cigarettes. Increased research on the subject has revealed that it has the opposite effect on smokers. Prior to the discovery of cannabis’s effect on respiratory health, prohibitionists argued that it had similar effects to cigarettes. Increased research on the subject has revealed that it has the opposite effect on smokers. Comparative studies conducted by (Caputi & Humphreys, 2018) discovered that subjects who had prolonged cannabis exposure had increased vital capacity and total lung capacity. These pieces of research showcase hyperinflation of the lungs and increased large air-ways resistance. On the other hand, there is a paucity of empirical evidence demonstrating airflow obstruction and impaired air transfer.
Management of seizure patients has been a daunting task for medical practitioners. Over the years, various treatment regimen have been proposed, and investigations conducted. With the discovery of the medical benefits of cannabis, researchers assessed the impact of cannabis on the management of seizures. Most drugs containing cannabis have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to safety concerns. Recently, the FDA managed to approve the mainstream medical utility of Epidiolex (Mennis, 2020). This makes Epidiolex the first drug with an active cannabis component to be approved by the FDA. According to the manufacturer, Epidiolex is efficient in managing seizures associated with Dravet syndrome and other seizure-affiliated disorders. The drug passed all the safety concern issues, and it is even effective and recommended for one-year-old children.
ADHD has plagued the country for decades. Families across the country have shared their frustrations on living with individuals with ADHD. Various management modalities have been proposed to help patients with ADHD gain focus. The acceptable treatment regimen and therapeutic interventions have proven redundant in the management of patients with ADHD. Pharmaceutical companies’ drugs have either been shown to be ineffective in the management of ADHD or to have a variety of adverse effects that reduce their utility. Individuals with ADHD have cognitive issues that make concentration become a daunting task. Research in the area of cannabis as a potential candidate to manage ADHD has shown promising results. The administration of cannabis for ADHD management has been considered safer compared to extant management drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin (Sarvet et al., 2018).
Patients with glaucoma have suffered for years with their condition. Due to a lack of treatment options, they have been forced to live with increased pressure in their eyeballs, which causes them excruciating pain. As a chronic pain management drug, cannabis has helped numerous patients diagnosed with glaucoma to manage their disease (Han et al., 2018). Cannabis has been shown to alleviate the pressure in the eyeballs of patients diagnosed with glaucoma, thus reducing the pain affiliated with the disorder.
Management of Alzheimer Disease
Recent research has shown promising strides towards the development of a management strategy for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s results from cognitive degeneration associated with aging. The endocannabinoids contained in marijuana have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce brain inflammation. This can be essential in the treatment and management of Alzheimer’s. Research in this area is fairly new, and more investigation is needed to support the claims.
Helps with PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects the young and the old alike. The disorder affects army veterans that have been deployed into war-prone areas. War has severe psychological impacts on the participants. The carnage associated with war impairs the cognitive acuity of veterans, and they develop PTSD. As a stress reliever, cannabis has been shown to be effective in the management of PTSD symptoms. As a result of its sedative effects on response muscles, cannabis is essential for maintaining a healthy flight-or-fight response, regulating the symptoms associated with PTSD.
Cannabis has had a bad reputation for over a century. Prohibitionists have attempted to diminish its utility by linking it to various societal vices such as crime. The history of its prohibition reveals a flawed system aimed at eliminating minority ethnic communities. For decades, pro-legalization groups have advocated for cannabis legalization. Cannabis has been fought for decades due to the prohibitionists’ steadfastness. According to research, prohibitionists’ claims are unsubstantiated. Cannabis has a plethora of health benefits. Cannabis has been shown to be more medically useful than most recreational drugs, from treating anxiety to managing Alzheimer’s disease.
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