In the United States, cannabis or marijuana has had a bit of a troubled history. On a federal level, marijuana is currently registered as a Schedule I substance: this means it is highly dangerous and highly addictive. Many people across the country argue against this categorization on several grounds; they often compare the loss of life and injury caused by alcohol to marijuana and some even believe marijuana has significant health benefits. The drug’s classification as a Schedule I substance means that the nature of studies performed on the substance is limited, so more research needs to be done. Understanding the history of marijuana use in the United States may help shed some light on this morally gray area.
The History of Marijuana in the United States
Marijuana as we know it had the misfortune of entering the United States during one of our nation’s weakest economic periods: the Great Depression. Mexican immigrants traveled north to the United States and brought cultivated, THC-rich marijuana with them. Due to high unemployment rates, many Americans saw the Mexicans as a reason for job-loss and marijuana became the scapegoat. The illegalization of marijuana occurred as a persecution of Mexican immigrants by launching a national campaign on marijuana based on fear as portrayed in the 1936 propaganda film Reefer Madness which sought to portray the dangers of marijuana use. Following the prevalence of marijuana use during the 1960s, the 1980s and 1990s saw a crackdown on all Schedule I drugs, of which marijuana became classified under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. Today many are fighting this long-standing stigma against marijuana with some even approaching the plant as medication.
Today there are now 26 states plus the District of Columbia that have some form of legalization for marijuana. Seven of these states plus Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for recreational use while the remaining 19 only allow for medical marijuana use. In addition to these states, many other states have some kind of decriminalization policy on marijuana, indicating a general trend towards federal legislation. Leading this charge are the thousands of patients around the country that attest to the medical relevance of marijuana in spite of a lack of medical literature. While more research needs to be done to truly understand all of the medical benefits of medical marijuana, there is strong evidence that if used correctly, medical marijuana can provide a number of surprising health benefits.
The Benefits of Legal Medical Marijuana
The cannabinoids inside of marijuana offer several diverse health affects, making medical marijuana potentially one of the most universal forms of medication. From the mental level, there is evidence that marijuana produces a calming effect on patients that may help with anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions; this effect marijuana has on one’s mental health can help countless people who struggle with the dangerous and unpredictable side effects of pharmaceuticals. Medical marijuana has been prescribed for veterans that struggle with PTSD — along with a canine companion, medical marijuana seems to be one of the most effective ways to combat the still-mysterious condition. Those who suffer from frequent epileptic seizures have been shown to have fewer and less intense seizures when using medical marijuana. Even cancer is affected by marijuana as the cannabinoids help to stop the spread of cancerous cells. Finally, many drug and alcohol detox centers have started using medical marijuana to treat addicts — there is evidence that marijuana may not be as addictive as the DEA would have us believe. So while more research continues to be done, it may be the case that marijuana becomes one of the most effective drugs on the planet within a few years time.