After my April 17 article about the war on drugs, I received several e-mails about the medical uses of marijuana. One posed the question do I think it will go mainstream, ie will governments including the United States Government not only legalise it for medical treatment but openly endorse it? The use of marijuana for strictly medical purposes is a different proposition from recreational use, so it raises different issues, but it is already being grown under licence in the UK. Until the passage of the 1925 Dangerous Drugs Act, marijuana/cannabis was legal here.
In June 2004, it was reported that cannabis grown in the UK for a drug company had been used in limited medical trials on arthritis sufferers. The results appear to have been favourable, something that is not entirely surprising because cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes since before the birth of Christ! Over the past thirty years, many studies about medical marijuana have confirmed its benefits in treating certain ailments, particularly the alleviation of pain. Perhaps most famously, Queen Victoria used cannabis to ease the pain of childbirth, something she experienced rather frequently as she bore no fewer than four sons and five daughters.
The United States is well ahead of the UK, and only this month the State of Massachusetts passed a law that will legalise the use of medical marijuana, joining California (in November 1996), Arizona (in November 2010) and a significant minority of states that have gone down this path. That being said, there is still a long way to go; the Boston Globe reported number of arrests in the wake of the new law prompted by claims of vagueness by the police and even the suggestion of fraud - ie the forging of doctors' letters.
Even so, the Libertarians and anti-Prohibitionists appear to be winning the argument. It is possible though that science may one day come up with a better way of dealing with pain than either marijuana or any other drug. And the way things are unfolding, that day may come sooner rather than later.
Consider the aforementioned case of arthritis sufferers. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease caused by the erosion of cartilage. As long ago as 2008, Scientific American reported that nanotubes may be used to repair cartilage. Amputees can suffer a lifetime of pain, but what if they were able to grow new limbs? Only fifty years ago this sounded like science fiction, yet research in this field has already borne fruit, although it will be some time yet before it can be applied to humans.
Until these new medical technologies have been properly developed and tested, there appears to be a place for medical marijuana. Whether or not governments endorse it openly is now a matter for the law-makers; if they listen to public opinion, the answer will almost certainly be yes.
[The above article was published originally by Yahoo! Voices, June 5, 2014].
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