Marijuana users have long complained about how safe marijuana is. In other words, marijuana isn’t nearly as dangerous as things that are legal, including many prescriptions, and yet it’s illegal. Why? They have long been bringing up the possible health benefits and medical uses of marijuana, and these days, it is no longer the drug of hippies, teen deadbeats, and musicians. It has gone quite mainstream, and there are many fights for its legalization. Some are winning the fight, even for recreational marijuana.
It’s going much further than most would expect though. A recent Pew study showed that the majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana. It may vary between regions, but seriously. The question many are bringing up more now than ever before is, is it safe? So what does it come down to?
Medical Benefits of Marijuana
Compared to many addictive prescriptions like Oxycotin for example, medical marijuana is considered by many to be less addictive and safer with more benefits. While only a couple states allow marijuana for recreational purposes, 18 states so far allow medical marijuana use for certain medical conditions, and many expect that the number will only grow. It has been used for cancer (to reduce nausea and increase appetite), rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS (appetite), depression, anxiety, insomnia, and Crohn’s disease to name a few. People who want marijuana legalized pretty much see it as a wonder drug.
Who is using it?
Like we said before, the demographic has been changing. Marijuana has become more mainstream. Sociologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz found that the average medical marijuana user was a white male seeking treatment for back pain, neck pain, anxiety, or insomnia. In other words, it’s the white male who wants to get high. Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver has predictably come out to dispel the idea that this is the norm for the country as a whole. It’s just something to talk about.
Used for more than 3000 years for pain, marijuana has been used most commonly for pain of all kinds. Think about it. Depression, anxiety, back pain, neck pain, Crohn’s disease, it runs the gamut of pain. Up until about 100 years ago, doctors have been known to prescribe medical marijuana for chronic pain. Studies have found that marijuana can significantly reduce pain, and when it is combined with opiates, it can even address chronic pain.
As marijuana is legalized, businesses move in. Some still require prescriptions of course, but there are many shops opening up to take advantage. There are plenty of people running marijuana farms (especially in California). Sativex, derived from marijuana, has been used in 20 countries to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms. This could be a big business for a lot of people.
Will this result in less drunk driving?
The Institute of Labor conducted a study 2 years ago in states with medical marijuana laws. In those states, traffic fatalities decreased by nearly 10%, and many suggest that marijuana could be used to replace alcohol. So is this really a good thing? As it turns out, apparently yes. Again, the rate of car accidents decreased, meaning that chances are drunk driving went down replaced by marijuana users who may not have been driving in the first place. Another New Zealand study found that marijuana users were more likely to get into car crashes. Overall, especially with such conflicting information, it’s hard to say how or if it really impacts driving.
No Recent Studies
The last study conducted by the Institute of Medicine on marijuana was nearly 15 years ago. Even with medical marijuana becoming more prevalent, government research funding has dropped by nearly 1/3 since 2007, meaning no real research since then (definitely no big research) for medical marijuana research. We know the dangers of a lot of other substances, especially things like alcohol and tobacco, but we don’t really know as much about pot.
IQ and Effects on the Brain
A study last fall in New Zealand claimed to show definite proof that marijuana use during the teen years lowers IQ. They said that it
alters how information is processed in the hippocampus. This led a researcher in Norway to challenge the idea, saying that the lower IQ levels could be based on socioeconomic factors, not marijuana use.
Of course, this is one of the things that came into my head. You’re smoking pot just as you would smoke tobacco in many cases. There are some who would say that the chemicals in cigarettes are what really damage your lungs, but is it true? According to one expert,
We know smoking anything is bad for your health, so of course regular use leads to the same problems as tobacco. According to this same expert, marijuana may have 3-4 times the tar and 50% more carcinogens than tobacco, something marijuana proponents would obviously contest. As you can imagine though, people don’t generally smoke 5 packs a day of rolled marijuana.
Do you really want to smoke marijuana? Maybe. Maybe not. It depends on the person of course. There are many things to consider when it comes to marijuana, and there are plenty of arguments being made. However, with the limited research and limited funding, it will take more time and more money to really figure out what the real risks and effects are.