Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Beware the Downsides of Medical Marijuana

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Beware the Downsides of Medical Marijuana

Article excerpt

Marijuana was placed under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in 1972 because it has "no accepted medical use." Since then, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana. Some states allow users to grow their own, while others allow only commercial growth and sales. Medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law nationwide. Proponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be a safe and effective treatment for symptoms of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, debilitating pain, glaucoma, epilepsy and other conditions. They cite dozens of peer- reviewed studies, prominent medical organizations and major government reports. Marijuana has been used as a medicine throughout world history.

Opponents argue that it is too dangerous, lacks FDA approval and legal drugs are available that make marijuana use unnecessary. They also say marijuana is addictive, can lead to harder drug use, interferes with fertility, impairs driving ability and injures the lungs, immune system and brain.

Marijuana is made up of more than 500 chemicals. Many of these are cannabinoids, which bind to receptors in the body and affect the immune system and brain.

Researchers have pinpointed two cannabinoids - THC and CBD - as beneficial. THC can make you high, while CBD does not.

When smoked, high temperatures can cause the chemicals in marijuana to combine and produce hundreds more. Research suggests that marijuana smoke contains up to 70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke. Studies show that people who started smoking marijuana before age 18 had a greater decline in IQ and cognitive function than people who started smoking as adults. Teen users who continue to smoke experience an additional 8-point IQ drop, which could not otherwise be accounted for.

THC has biphasic activity. At low doses, it has certain effects and, at high doses, it has other effects. Someone using pot at a low dose might be calm, happy and hungry. Some could also see medical benefits. But, if you take in too much THC, you can become irritable or even psychotic.

Thirty years ago, marijuana averaged 1 percent to 2 percent THC content. Today, it can be 10 percent to 12 percent. Along with that THC increase comes the potential for increased and stronger side- effects. …

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