Marijuana: A Horticultural Revolution, A Medical and Legal Battle

For years there has been a wonder drug which has befriended countless sick patients in a number of countries. A relatively inexpensive drug that is not covered by health care plans which has aided the ill both mentally and physically–marijuana. Significant scientific and medical studies have demonstrated that marijuana is safe for use under medical supervision and that the cannabis plant, in its natural form, has important therapeutic benefits that are often of critical medical importance to persons afflicted with a variety of life-threatening illnesses. Courts have recognized marijuana’s medical value in treatment and have ruled that marijuana can be a drug of necessity in the treatment of glaucoma, cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. From the collection of information we now have on marijuana’s health benefits for the ill, there is no longer any reason to keep it illegal. It should therefore be legal for licensed physicians to prescribe marijuana for terminal patients for whom it offers the only reasonable opportunity for living without unbearable pain.

Marijuana has been used many times to help ease pain and suffering. It often eases nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, reduces the pain of AIDS patients and lowers eye pressure in glaucoma sufferers. Cancer and AIDS patients often lose a lot of weight, either due directly to their illness or indirectly to the treatment of the illness. Dramatic weight loss puts their lives in even more danger. Marijuana stimulates the appetite, thus enabling patients to eat more and gain weight which in turn strengthens the immune system. So if there are so many benefits, then why is marijuana not legal? Many states contend that the ban on medical marijuana is necessary to prevent drug abuse and the availability of illicit drugs and to control the purity of medicinal drug products. These states have no compelling interest in intervening to needlessly prolong terminal patients’ suffering.

States should allow the medical use of marijuana under strict regulations, rather than uphold an outdated drug classification scheme. While federal agencies adamantly maintain marijuana has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, the medical prohibition has come under strong legal challenge from seriously ill Americans who have been arrested on marijuana-related charges. In U.S. v. Randall, a Washington, D.C. man afflicted by glaucoma employed the little-used Common Law doctrine of necessity to defend himself against criminal charges of marijuana cultivation. On November 24, 1976, federal Judge James Washington ruled Randall’s use of marijuana constituted a medical necessity.

In part, Judge Washington ruled: While blindness was shown by competent medical testimony to be the otherwise inevitable result of defendant’s disease, no adverse effects from the smoking of marijuana have been demon- strated. Medical evidence suggests that the medical prohibition is not well-founded. If a judge can determine when a medical necessity is warranted and can rule that a sick individual should be granted the legal use of marijuana, then should a licensed physician not be just as capable of doing so, if not…much more capable? Well trained medical professionals rather than inapt federal bureaucrats should be responsible for determining a patient’s medical care routine.

This is an intolerable, untenable legal situation. Unless legislators and regulators attend to these urgent human needs and rapidly move to correct the anomaly arising from the absolute prohibition of marijuana which forces law abiding citizens into the streets – – and criminality – to meet their legitimate medical needs, cases of the type of U.S. v. Randall will continue to be prevalent and will increase considerably. There is a pressing need for a more compassionate, humane law which clearly discriminates between the criminal conduct of those who socially abuse chemicals and the legitimate medical needs of seriously ill patients whose welfare and very lives may depend on the prudent therapeutic use of those very same substances.