Medical marijuana: The debate about the pros and cons continues – The South African

Medical Cannabis Legalisation

The extract of Cannabis sativa (marijuana) was once one of the most highly prescribed medicines in the United States — until its prohibition in 1937. After becoming illegal, the use of the drug for medicinal purposes became restricted, however, in recent years, when some states decided to legalise smoked marijuana for individual patients, medical marijuana became a subject of contentious debate.

On the one hand, The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug and considers it has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and meth and are considered to be dangerous drugs because they’re highly addictive and may cause “severe psychological or physical dependence”.

On the other hand, despite its stigma, many people believe that marijuana has high value as a medicinal herb for treating various conditions. Marijuana can relieve many types of chronic pain, nausea, and vomiting from any number of ailments.

It is argued that many people suffering from terminal illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS could benefit from consuming marijuana and should have the right to do so if desired. 

Social implications of marijuana use

Some argue that marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act should be changed by Congress. If marijuana were no longer a Schedule 1 drug, its medicinal benefits could be recognised legally, relieving the suffering of thousands of terminally ill patients.

However, on the other hand, if medical marijuana were legalised, there could be repercussions outside the realm of medicine, leading teens to believe that marijuana is safe for recreational use and increasing the availability of the drug.

Pros

Based on various studies, here are some of the benefits and cons of using marijuana:

  • Reduce or control epileptic seizures
  • Can decrease symptoms from Dravet’s syndrome
  • THC may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease
  • May prevent or settle down muscle spasms
  • Alleviates symptoms from Hepatitis C treatments
  • It may be used to treat inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Can be used to improve metabolism
  • It can soothe Parkinson’s disease tremors
  • Can be used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Cons

  • Impairment of thinking, problem-solving skills, and memory
  • Lowered reaction times and altered perception
  • Reduced balance and coordination
  • Apathy, drowsiness, and depression which may affect personality and mood
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Heightened risk of a chronic cough and respiratory infections
  • Potential for hallucinations and withdrawal symptoms
  • Immune system suppression from long-term use
  • Reduction of male hormones

South Africa and marijuana

In September 2018, South Africa’s Constitutional Court legalised the use of cannabis in private for personal consumption, allowing adult citizens to grow, possess, and use the drug for personal recreational or medicinal use.

While South Africa may be ahead of the curve when it comes to the legal use marijuana, the ongoing debate on the pros and cons of this drug and whether it should be legalised to allow for medicinal use is a controversy that is likely to continue in the United States and around the world for decades to come.

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