Medicinal marijuana is the use of cannabis and its extracts as a remedy for curing or managing medical conditions. This form of medication has been in use since 2,757 BC and today continues to elicit mixed debates about its legalization and subsequent use in medical institutions. Although the scope of the use of medicinal marijuana has been unclear, and despite the hostility to research, legalization and use proposals by a number of governments around the world, it does have numerous, well-documented health benefits to patients suffering various medical conditions. Examples of the medicinal effects of marijuana include the amelioration of nausea and vomiting, creation of a hunger sensation among AIDS and chemotherapy patients, reduction of intraocular eye pressure, and alleviation of pain among chemotherapy patients (Collet et al, 2008, pp. 1672). There have been claims that the medication also treats cancer but these have not been documented or verified.
Pros and Cons of Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana
The idea surrounding the legalization has been generating heated debates from all quarters. Despite documented evidences of the health benefits of marijuana, various governments around the world have delayed to give the issue a positive approach citing a lack of consistent scientific data to back up the claims (Earleywine, 2002, pp. 31). Opponents argue that this form of medication is obsolete as there are improved and safer methods that can perform the same roles as marijuana. Besides, governments fear that upon its legalization, there is a high likelihood of abusing the substance and this could further worsen one’s state of health. Opposition of this move also stems from the idea that since smoking is the cheapest way of using marijuana, users could resort to this method rather than the safer methods such as the use of vaporizers, and this could create smoke-related complications such cancer.
Proponents of the legalization of medicinal marijuana debate point out a number of advantages. First, they point out to the overwhelming evidence that proves that indeed, marijuana relieves patients of certain forms of pains, vomiting, and other symptoms arising from other ailments such as cancer and AIDS (Elders, 2004, para. 1). Marijuana also cancels the side effects of the drugs used to treat or manage these ailments. Proponents also reject the assertion that smoked marijuana is dangerous, mentioning that even though cannabis has been smoked in Western nations for several years, no cases of lung cancer have been attributed to cannabis (Grinspoon, 2006, para. 1). Abrams et al (2003) affirms that AIDS patients receiving cannabinoids had improved immune systems that those on regular medication, besides, the patients gained weight by up to 1.8 kilograms (pp. 262).
Both the opponents and proponents have genuine issues, but one thing that comes clearly out of the debate is that before the legalization of medicinal marijuana, certain policies have to be put in place.
Policies towards the Legalization of Medicinal Marijuana
One of the policies that must be adopted before medicinal marijuana is legalized is to place an age restriction on users. Since teens have a high likelihood of using marijuana for purposes other than medicinal, only persons aged 21 years and above will be allowed to purchase the substance, just as has been done in some countries and states. If the age limit rule is not put into place, teenagers might assume that the legalization of medicinal marijuana implies that the substance is safe for non-medical use and may be tempted to use it for recreational purposes. Therefore, only persons aged 21+ should be allowed to purchase medicinal marijuana as they are more responsible.
Licensing of Outlets
The second policy that would have to be adopted is to issue special permits or licenses to outlets where medicinal marijuana will be sold. Licensing has to be done at two levels, the first license will be issued by the state and the second by the local government. The conditions or running such outlets such as operation hours will vary from county to county, or from city to city. The local governments will also be given the authority to regulate the number of outlets that sell medicinal marijuana since the more the outlets in an area, the more the likelihood of abuse of the substance. Special licensing of these premises is required so that only a legitimate medical problem is treated using this medication. Besides, the profiles of the operators of the premises would be checked to ensure that they are free of any criminal record, anybody who had earlier been convicted of a drug crime will not be allowed to run the outlets. The rules would even bar persons who have not defaulted on student and bank loans from running the outlets.
Location of Outlets
The third policy would focus on the location of outlets. The local government will ensure that outlets are only allowed within 1,000 feet away from schools, this would ensure that underage persons do not have exposure to marijuana. The distance should vary from one location to another according to the number and average age of the school goers, however, the minimum 1,000 miles must be adhered to (Wolf, 2010, para. 4). In order to limit the number of such stores, authorities will charge between $5,000 and $15,000 to apply for a license depending on the size of the outlet. Besides, the amount of marijuana sold at any moment will be regulated and will depend on the amount used per day. Other facilities that will be considered include social places such as public recreational areas, sports venues, and other areas as deemed necessary by the state and local governments.
The legalization of medicinal marijuana is a complex that involves various stakeholders. These include the government, teenagers or underage persons, opponents and proponents, and health experts. The views of all these persons must be taken into consideration before the full legalization is done. This paper presents policies that must be adopted in order to ensure that marijuana does not fall into wrong hands, or is not abused. None of these policies can be hailed as the best, for instance, while the age-restriction rule may be in place, unscrupulous operators may avail marijuana to underage persons and this may lead to its abuse. This may be mitigated by running a profile of all operators to ensure they do not a criminal past. Hence, a combination of the policies can ensure that medicinal marijuana is only availed to the right persons.
Local authorities would have to impose an age-restriction on the purchase of the substance and follow it up by ensuring rigorous profiling of persons who want to run the outlets. The location of the premises, amount sold at any given time, and operation hours will also have to be legislated. Anyone operator who contravenes the laws will lose their licenses permanently or for a certain duration as indicated in the laws.
Abrams, D. I., et al. (2003). Short-term effects of cannabinoids in patients with HIV-1 infection: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Ann. Intern. Med., 139(4), 258-66.
Collet, J. P, Shapiro, S., Tongtong, W., & Ware, M. A. (2008). Effects of medical cannabinoids: a systematic review. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178 (13), 1669–1678.
Earleywine, M. (2002). Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence. NY: Oxford University Press.
Elders, J. (2004). Myths about medical marijuana. The Providence Journal, Web.
Grinspoon, L. (2006). Puffing is the best medicine. Los Angeles Times, Web.
Wolf, J. (2010). New medical marijuana rules come with age restriction. Web.