Pros and Cons of Medical Marijuana

The pros and cons of decriminalizing marijuana for the health benefits.

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Patricia Bratianu RN PHD RH- AHG

Several states are decriminalizing marijuana for medical uses.  Using medical marijuana offers several health benefits and challenges.

Medical marijuana provides health benefits to people who have serious illnesses that do not respond well to other treatments. Pain and nausea can be relieved with marijuana. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease have all been researched. Medical marijuana relieves symptoms in all three conditions. It is also helpful in the treatment of “orphan diseases”. Orphan diseases are rare and have little or no pharmaceutical treatment options. Research is considering whether medical marijuana may benefit sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Marijuana stimulates the appetite. This can be highly beneficial in the presence of wasting diseases such as cancers and AIDS.  Cannabis also eases the side effects of chemotherapy during cancer treatment.

On the negative side, users of medical marijuana  still face a “drug user” stigma by many people; therefore, some patients may be uncomfortable taking the remedy.

There is potential for abuse. Some states  allow  patients using medical cannabis to grow and possess a limited amount of marijuana. People sometimes  take advantage of the system and use it for personal profit.

Medical marijuana can be difficult to obtain and expensive. Marijuana legislation and research continues to be bogged down in political disagreements.  As such, insurance coverage for cannabis therapy is extremely limited.

Medical marijuana that is smoked has a distinctive odor.  This may prompt law enforcement officers to investigate unnecessarily and cause stress to patients and families.

Marijuana does have side effects. Panic attacks and paranoia have occurred with the use of marijuana. Cannabis is sedating, so caution must be used while driving or operating machinery. Some say it interferes with motivation and concentration. Like any other medication, one must use caution when first utilizing marijuana to see how the individual responds to it. Actions may be potentiated in the presence of alcohol or other drugs.

Marijuana provides a treatment option that may ease suffering for some patients. It is helpful for healthcare providers and patients to have another tool that may work where others have not.  Marijuana works by mechanisms different than other remedies. Medical marijuana can be provided in several different forms. Method of delivery may be sculpted to patient need. Some people do not desire to smoke it. Foods, salves and tinctures may be used instead. Oils and vaporizers may also be available in some locations.  Sometimes a different mechanism of action results in improved patient outcomes and less suffering.

Studies are controlled by the Public Health Service in the United States. Hopefully, political bias does not determine what studies occur and who gets to investigate the medical uses of cannabis.  Marijuana, at its most basic, is a plant that grows.  The bigger question remains- does a government have the right to restrict the use of a naturally occurring organism, or should people be personally responsible for its use? All plants have side effects. This is just another medicine that people have used for centuries. 

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