When All Else Fails

Marijuana: Recreational drug or natural health miracle?

by Kevin Genovario, MCCVoice

Last month, New Jersey passed a bill allowing chronically ill patients to alleviate their pain legally by smoking marijuana. If anything, New Jersey is beginning to show some common sense.

There is an extensive list of health benefits of taking marijuana. A recent study done by The Scripps Research Institute shows that THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s “high,” can help slow the process of Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies show that THC is an effective treatment for nausea, beneficial for patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy. Marijuana also acts as a pain reliever and is often used by patients with multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. Additionally, as Hunter Johnson, 21, points out, when you take Marijuana, “you sleep good, have a good appetite.”

Any negative impact of the drug comes from the actual smoke, not the cannabis that produces the benefits. But even the smoke has an advantage. The delivery of marijuana through smoke makes the effects felt by patients within minutes, which is ideal for the treatment of pain or nausea. But smoking marijuana isn’t the only way of ingesting it.

There are now six medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey for those who qualify for medical marijuana. The dispensaries give patients the option to bake the medical marijuana into food such as breads or cakes or even blend it into fruit smoothies. If they don’t wish to prepare the foods themselves, restaurant-quality baked goods, candies, and other items are available at the dispensaries. Finally, many patients prefer to vaporize their medical marijuana. This method involves heating the drug without burning it and inhaling its vapors.

Mercer student Jane Senor, 23, describes such benefits regarding a multiple sclerosis patient. She says, “My friend’s father has multiple sclerosis. He legally uses marijuana to make him feel better, but he doesn’t have to smoke it. He puts it in his tea. Before taking marijuana, he was prescribed Percocets, but he hated it because it didn’t make him feel right and he still couldn’t walk. He had to ride one of those scooters. After taking marijuana he can now get around normally and it really impacted his life.”

In a 2009 poll by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the majority of Americans now agree that responsible marijuana smokers should not be treated like criminals. Eight out of ten Americans support the medical use of marijuana and 3 out of 4 support a fine-only punishment for recreational smokers.

So why isn’t medical marijuana legal in all states? Sure, there are negatives to smoking it such as damage to the lungs, but if Americans were that worried about the safety of their lungs, then a quarter of the country wouldn’t be smoking cigarettes. Also, the negative effects of marijuana are primarily seen in chronic users and prescribing medical marijuana to an ill patient does not make them a chronic user.

The bill that New Jersey passed to make medical marijuana legal for chronically ill patients is a window of opportunity for us to learn more about the drug and what it can do beneficially, and to conduct more research for alternative methods of taking the drug to avoid smoke-related health risks. If marijuana cannot be prescribed as a drug, then what business do other drugs have in being legal?