Got pot? Conservatives do not! All kidding aside, Conservatives have legitimate concerns about legalizing medical marijuana, such as the gateway effect and lack of needed research into the effectiveness of medical marijuana. However, Liberals also pose arguments that should not be ignored, including the right of an individual to self- medicate. At a minimum, medical marijuana should be legalized for medical research. When, and if, research demonstrates that marijuana is more effective for specific diseases and conditions than existing medicine, marijuana should be legalized to treat those diseases.
Many Conservatives worry about the “gateway effect” and claim that, “There is ample evidence that early initiation of drug use primes the brain for enhanced later responses to other drugs…Establishing it as a third legal drug, along with tobacco and alcohol, will increase the expanding opioid epidemic.” 1*
However, Liberals disagree, and state that marijuana is not a gateway drug. According to a Fact check article, “Though there are correlations between marijuana use and other drugs, there is no conclusive evidence that one actually causes the other.” Liberals make the point that, “Just because marijuana smokers might be more likely to later use, say, cocaine, does not imply that using marijuana causes one to use cocaine.” 2* Careful analysis tells us that just because two things are correlated does not mean that one caused the other.
Indeed, Liberals advance an intriguing argument that medical marijuana is the solution to the opioid epidemic because it is a solution to many people’s problem with chronic pain. Medical research has been severely limited by federal classification as a Schedule One drug. Researchers and doctors are hesitant to seek approval of medical marijuana research projects because approval is rare. They also have legitimate concerns about their licenses and jobs. 3* However, much anecdotal evidence indicates that marijuana is an effective treatment for chronic pain. According to CNN.com, “Some medicines based on cannabis such as Sativex are being tested on multiple sclerosis patients and used to treat cancer pain. The drug has been approved in Canada and in some European countries. In another trial involving 56 human patients, scientists saw a 30% reduction in pain in those who smoked marijuana.” 3*
There are additional Liberal arguments that should not be ignored. For example, why should the government dictate what an individual uses to control their pain or other medical condition? You would think that Conservatives would argue for individual liberty and less government interference with individual choice but they do not. In fact, this is one of the Liberals’ arguments.
It is clear that both sides of this issue pose legitimate arguments. However, the solution to this issue is not so clear. A compromise must be made between the Conservative and Liberal perspectives. A reasonable compromise would be to legalize medical marijuana for medical research and legalize it as medically appropriate. If existing or new research demonstrates that marijuana is more effective for specific diseases and conditions than existing medicine, marijuana should be legalized to treat those diseases. The FDA should treat marijuana as they do any other drug and can approve its use to treat specific medical conditions.
According to a 2013 survey in the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 8 in 10 doctors approve the use of medical marijuana. Additionally, survey results from the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that, “92% of patients said that medical marijuana alleviated symptoms of their serious medical conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, migraines, and cancer.” 4* Many doctors and their patients support the legalization of marijuana for medical uses. To ignore the 23+ states that currently allow for both medical and recreational use would be unwise. 4* Like it or not, the cat may already be out of the bag, and Conservatives may not be able to close Pandora’s box. The majority of our society is leaning towards the legalization of marijuana’s medical and recreational use. 57% of U.S. adults are in favor of the legalization of marijuana. 5* If we cannot stop the use of marijuana, the least we can take advantage of its potential medical benefits.
HelloMD CEO Mark Hadfield claims, “There is overwhelming evidence that marijuana helps to alleviate a range of conditions that affect millions of Americans. If you take into account the relatively benign nature of marijuana—with zero deaths from overdose—and contrast that with this overwhelming benefit, it is really quite an eye-opener.” 6*
Despite an increase in medical research showing positive effects for chronic pain, epilepsy, cancer, and many other diseases, marijuana still carries a significant drug stigma. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, “It can be tricky to be on the right side of science, but on the wrong side of ideology.” However, this stigma is well worth fighting to overcome. By at least legalizing marijuana for medical research, we can help stimulate the “medical marijuana revolution”. 7*
I must admit that I have a preference bias. I have a disorder that scientists claim would be helped by medical marijuana. Therefore, who could blame me for encouraging this drug’s legalization for medical use? I hope that future research of the medical uses of marijuana reveals many life-saving and pain-relieving solutions to many conditions, including my own.