On Nov. 6, legislation was passed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. Since then, there has been a serious debate about whether or not the recreational use of marijuana is safe, much less acceptable.
In order to fully understand the underlying issue, it is important to understand the effects of marijuana as a whole.
Marijuana is the dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant, which can be used in cigarette form as a narcotic or hallucinogen.
Although marijuana is often sought after for its hallucinogenic qualities, it is being re-examined for medicinal purposes. Like any medicine, marijuana has its advantages and disadvantages.
The disadvantage of using marijuana is that it can cause short-term memory loss during the “high” it produces.
According to an article on nature.com, “How Marijuana Makes You Forget,” by Mo Costandi, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) can weaken the connections, or synapses, between neurons in the hippocampus of the brain. The hippocampus is a structure that is crucial for memory formation.
On the other hand, marijuana has various medicinal benefits, such as: preventing blindness and Glaucoma, preventing epileptic seizures, reducing anxiety, slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and preventing inflammatory bowel disease.
Understanding how marijuana impairs memory could help researchers to create drugs that have the same therapeutic benefits but fewer side effects.
Psychiatrist Tod H. Mikuriya, began researching marijuana’s therapeutic possibilities in the 1960s. The outcome of his research suggested that there are over 200 ailments that could be treated with marijuana. Some of the minor ailments include: stuttering, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, and writer’s cramp.
According to an article on businessinsider.com by Randy Astaiza, the National Cancer Institute agrees with the ideas of Mikuriya, more specifically the use of marijuana for treatment for cancer patients: effects of chemotherapy, preventing nausea and vomiting, increasing appetite, relieving pain, and improving sleep.
In addition, cannibidol, another chemical found in marijuana, was reported in 2007 to be able to stop cancer from spreading, according to researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
Cannabidiol stops cancer by turning off a gene called Id-1. The researchers in San Francisco studied breast cancer cells in the lab that had high expression levels of Id-1 and treated them with cannabidiol. After treatment the cells had decreased Id-1 expression and were less aggressive spreaders.
Marijuana can also prevent blindness and Glaucoma. “Studies in the early 1970s showed that marijuana, when smoked, lowered intraocular pressure (IOP) in people with normal pressure and those with glaucoma,” according to the National Eye Institute.
According to a 2003 article, Marijuana is capable of preventing epileptic seizures. Robert J. DeLorenzo, of Virginia Commonwealth University, gave marijuana extract and synthetic marijuana to epileptic rats. After doing so, he found that the rats had been free of epileptic seizures for about 10 hours. The same active ingredient in marijuana mentioned earlier, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, controls seizures by binding to the brain cells responsible for controlling excitability and regulating relaxation.
In 2010, Medical marijuana users claimed that the drug helps relieve pain and suppress nausea. During the same year, researchers at Harvard Medical School suggested that that these benefits may actually be from reduced anxiety, which would improve the smoker’s mood and act as a sedative in low doses.
In 2006, a study led by Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute suggested that marijuana may be able to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, which was published in “Molecular Pharmaceutics,” found that THC slows the formation of amyloid plaques by blocking the enzyme in the brain that makes them. These plaques are capable of killing brain cells, and therefore cause Alzheimer’s.
University of Nottingham researchers found in 2010 that chemicals in marijuana, including THC and cannabidiol, interact with cells in the body that play an important role in digestion and immune responses. This means that marijuana could help patients who are suffering from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, two inflammatory bowel diseases.
Regardless of the drug’s illegality, there are ample resources to suggest that marijuana has a legitimate use in the medical field. If not for recreational use, marijuana should at least be legalized for medical use in the remaining states of the US.