The other day Dr. Oz hosted a debate on his show about Medical Marijuana and whether or not it should be legal for patients like talk show host Montel Williams who has been battling Multiple Sclerosis for over a decade. Also on his show was Dr. Andrea Barthwell and Dr. Donald Abrams who both supported two very different opinions on the subject of marijuana being used for medical purposes. The show had some heated moments from everyone including the audience so today I would like to take the time to try to lay down some perspective. Now right off the bat, before I say anything, I want to make one thing clear: I am not supporting the use of Marijuana. I myself do not smoke it, I never have, and probably never will. I am trying to discuss this subject without condoning or condemning because I see this as a basic human rights issue and would like to support basic reason and logic rather then irrationality. That said, I obviously have a side in this debate: I am all for the use of medical marijuana by those who have been evaluated by a doctor and who have reason to use the drug as a treatment rather then other “routine” prescription medications. I do not think that Marijuana should be legalized for recreational use nor do I support the recreational use of Marijuana in any way shape or form. There are so many different factors to look at from both sides of this debate so let’s take it one topic at a time.
Marijuana can be used to relieve various symptoms that people with chronic illnesses such as AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and HIV may experience. There are in fact many other prescription medications that doctors can prescribe to patients to help relieve the same symptoms how ever, every patient is different and every patient reacts to different medications differently. Just as one prescription drug may work for me and not someone else Marijuana may work for one patient and not another. In this article I will be referring to Marijuana as a medication and I will also be looking at this subject from the perspective of a Multiple Sclerosis patient as I myself do have MS but I will also do my best to talk about the subject without bias.
The Debate: Pro Medical Marijuana
First lets start with the pro medical marijuana side. Patients may choose to try medical marijuana to relieve symptoms such as pain because other prescription medications either have not worked or cause more problems then they solve.
Again, this is on an individual basis and that is not an argument as to why Marijuana should not be used medically as all medications work on an individual basis. Vicodin does wonders for some people but after I had my Wisdom teeth removed, Vicodin did not do anything for me. So Right off the bat I have to say, if a medication does not work what do you do? You try something else. If that doesn’t work what do you do? You once again try something else and if medical Marijuana happens to make your pain go away what’s the problem?
The Debate: Against Medical Marijuana
After watching this episode of the Dr. Oz show I came up with a list of all the main reasons people against medical Marijuana seemed to be against the medication.
1- They Don’t agree with the “smoking” of a medication.
2- They claim that where ever Marijuana is made legal crime rates and youth usage goes up.
3- They fear that patients will go around their doctors for medications.
5- They claim that marijuana is just as dangerous as cigarettes.
Now because I feel the people against the use of Marijuana have such a weak argument I am going to go ahead and throw in a sixth issue for them:
6- Marijuana is just as dangerous as drinking.
So, again, I am on the “Pro Medical Marijuana” side of this debate so allow me to tackle each of these issues one at a time.
Dr. Andrea Barthwell claimed that she could not support the “smoking of a medication” while Dr. Donald Abrams supported the idea that inhaling medication is nothing new, for example, asthma patients inhale their medication. Dr. Andrea Barthwell fought back concluding that inhaling a substance and burning a substance while breathing in it’s smoke are two completely different things… Now forgive me if I come off a little sarcastic (for lack of better terms), but isn’t the definition of inhaling “to breath something in”? I don’t understand what the difference between breathing asthma medication in and breathing a medication’s smoke in is… The only thing I can think of is the fact that the asthma medication is “naturally” in a gas form but Marijuana just requires one additional step to get the medication into your body via inhalation. According to pro medical marijuana debaters on the show, Marijuana does not increase the risks of pulmonary disease or cancer so for the sake of this debate we are going to have to check this one off as “It just makes me feel uncomfortable” for the people against medical Marijuana.
“Where ever Marijuana is made legal crime rates and youth usage goes up.” Now this one is a little more tricky because it is so sensitive to the “numbers” but I am still going to have to disagree here regardless of who the numbers support. The bottom line: If your concerned that your child is going to smoke Marijuana just because it has been made medically available to patients shouldn’t you be more worried as to how they are getting this medical Marijuana and why they are hanging out with the people who are helping them get it? Shouldn’t you be concerned as to why your child might not have their head screwed on just right making them open to the idea of drugs in the first place? Fact of the matter is, is that drug usage has nothing to do with the law, it has to do with a particular kind of person and their environment. Those kinds of people are going to experiment with what ever they have access to whether it’s industrial cleaners or methane from cow manure. What ever they can get a hold of will become their “gateway” drug to the more serious drugs because that’s the kind of person they are, the kind of person who wants to experiment. So legalizing the medical use of Marijuana really does not make any difference in a child’s ability to gain access to the medication because they still have to find someone on the streets to get it from and they still have to be irresponsible enough to want to go out and find access to that medication. So as far as this one goes, I think it is up to parents to raise their kids in a way that will encourage them to have no desire to experiment with drugs, I believe that is the responsibility of a parent in the first place as children have much easier access to cigarets, alcohol, and cough medications.
“Fear that patients will go around their doctors for medications.”
I find this next argument pretty funny… Dr. Andrea Barthwell worries that legalizing Medical Marijuana will cause patients to go behind their doctors backs and buy their medication from street vendors. I could go into detail on this one but lets keep it simple. Maybe there’s a reason your patients are going behind your back for help, maybe it’s because your not helping them. Simple solution: Be a better doctor. Moving on.
According to Dr. Oz’s research team, only one out of ten people become addicted to Marijuana. One out of ten… Now this is where a battle of numbers can come into play once again, a battle I do not wish to participate in because numbers can so easily become biased so I am going to try to keep this on a “common sense, look around and tell me what you see” kind of basis. As mentioned on the show tobacco is obviously more addictive then Marijuana and tobacco is legal. Alcohol is addictive and alcohol is legal. Pretty much every prescription medication prescribed for pain and many of the other common symptoms of diseases like Multiple Sclerosis is addictive. So why are people so concerned that patients will become addicted to medical Marijuana when so many people are constantly becoming addicted to Cigarettes, alcohol, and prescription medications? Might I add, cigarettes and alcohol are legal, addictive, and can’t even help a person’s health in any way shape or form, in fact, they both directly damage a person’s health and once again, they are legal and they are ok. Prescription medications can help with certain symptoms but often cause additional side effects, something some people also may call damaging to one’s health but so far that does not seem to be an issue. Medical Marijuana also can help relieve symptoms and may cause some side effects, way less then any prescription medication can cause, but yes, of course there are some possible side effects but if Marijuana can solve the same problems as some prescription medications without causing as many additional problems as prescription medications why is it not ok? I’m either once again going to have to check the “It just makes me uncomfortable” box for this one or the “Medical Marijuana will damage the profits of pharmaceutical companies” box. I will touch on that idea a bit more later on.
Speaking of tobacco, let’s talk about the claim that smoking medical Marijuana is just as damaging as smoking a cigarette… Well… This one is so easy I don’t even know where to start… So, medical Marijuana, something prescribed to make a problem go away is just as damaging as an item who’s soul purpose is to cause problems while showing no evidence any kind of health benefits… Medical Marijuana has been proven to relieve various symptoms and even possibly reduce the risk of cancer while Cigarettes… Well… They just give you cancer. Simple logic already prove this accusation wrong… Sure, marijuana might have some negative side effects for some people but so do all prescription medications… Only difference is marijuana and prescription medications don’t typically kill people where cigarettes do. I’m sorry but I just don’t see the argument here, I really don’t.
We touched on tobacco now lets touch on alcohol, a substance that is without a doubt much more abused then medical Marijuana especially among our youth. How often do you hear about an alcohol related car accident on the news? Often right? Now how often do you hear about car accidents that are a result of medical Marijuana?.. Have you ever heard of one? I haven’t. Now that’s not to say it has never happened as I’m sure many people against medical Marijuana are saying right now but obviously it doesn’t happen enough to make it to the news so in my opinion medical Marijuana is not anywhere near as large of a threat as alcohol. Medical Marijuana does not make people crazy like alcohol does so once again, why is alcohol ok but Medical Marijuana is not? Why is it acceptable for people to get drunk, act crazy, do stupid things, hurt and kill people but it’s not ok for someone to feel “high” and relaxed? Again, we are checking the “It just makes me feel uncomfortable” box.
Criticism on the Debate
Like any other sensitive issue being debated among our nation right now you have two groups of people: One group who has concrete reasoning and evidence to support their opinion and another who has nothing but irrational accusations to defend theirs. Now I’m not trying to point finger and say who is right or wrong here because this is America, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. All I am saying is that when it comes to making a decision you have to look at the pros and cons of each possible decision and decide “which decision will do more good then bad” and then you go with that decision because logically it makes sense. In this debate all I saw was a bunch of people desperately defending the idea that medical Marijuana is bad but not one single person could provide any concrete reason for why
it is bad… Every time a question was asked of someone who was against medical Marijuana they would defer from it and start ranting on some random statistical number that had nothing to do with the question but instead directly played favor to their “tunnel visioned” argument and/or opinion.
In my opinion, from a third person perspective, it seemed as though the people who were for the use of medical Marijuana had concrete reasons and facts to support why the use of medical Marijuana was beneficial but their opposers could never provide any reasoning for why they were wrong, they could only state that they were just simply wrong. So which way does the scale seem to be tipping? Well given that the pro medical Marijuana side of the debate had multiple, concrete reasons for how medical Marijuana can help better peopls lives and that the people against the use of medical Marijuana had no concrete reasons for how medical Marijuana would harm society I am going to have to go with the pro medical Marijuana side… Legaling the use of medical marijuana logically make more sense and is the more beneficial choice of the matter. It may not support everyone’s moral beliefs but that’s not what this is about, this is not about people feelings, it’s about people’s health.
My Opinion on the Issue
Simply put, medical Marijuana seems to provide just as much help (if not more) as typical prescription medications while causing less side effects and being far less addictive then most medications. So what exactly is the argument against it? There is none really… It’s just another taboo subject that people have to riot against because it makes them feel uncomfortable and rather then learning how to deal with their discomfort on the matter they would rather just eliminate it from the picture all together so they can avoid the responsibility of dealing with it.
As far as the politics are concerned I think it’s just a matter of time… As soon as pharmaceutical or tobacco company can figure out how to control the market they will push politicians to legalize it with the incentives of tax revenue and it will be legal before you know it. So long as pharmaceutical or tobacco companies can’t control the market I believe they will put pressure on politicians to resist legalizing it because as it may increase tax revenue regardless of who is in control of the Marijuana market it will not increase corporate revenue unless the market is under total control… Considering so many politicians are “in bed” with these pharmaceutical and tobacco companies I think it’s safe to say politicians will continue to do what they are told by the guys who are secretly paying the bills.
Should Marijuana be legalized? In my opinion, no. Should Medical
Marijuana be legalized. In my opinion yes. Marijuana should be legal for medical use, a doctor should be able to prescribe this medication if it is in the best interest of the patient regardless of how Bob, the guy 5 houses down, feels because it is none of Bob’s business. Bob doesn’t need to know if I am smoking medical Marijuana to relieve pain or popping Vicodin to relieve pain, only my doctor and I need to know because the only person my medication effects is me
A doctor’s job is to maintain a patient’s well being not to collect a paycheck. So to hear Dr. Andrea Barthwell state that her biggest fear of medical Marijuana being legalized is that “patients will get medication from street vendors rather then an approved source. It compromises my roll as a physician” kind of ticks me off because it directly supports the feeling that a lot of patients in the MS community feel: Our doctors don’t listen, they don’t care, they just want our money. She seems to be worried that she won’t be able to prescribe as much medication because a patient would be able to purchase their medication elsewhere just like you can purchase cough medicine or OTC pain killers at your local drugstore. So that also reinforces the question: What is the roll of a physician exactly? I was under the impression that it was to help patients but it seems to be the roll of a lot of physicians to help the pharmaceutical companies make money. If you are a physician and you are claiming that it’s your roll and goal to help patient live a healthy, fulfilling life, then you should probably support the use of medical Marijuana because it definitely helps people like Montel Williams. Even if you don’t personally think it can help a patient what matters is that the patient feels like their medication is working. Sugar pills aren’t illegal because they don’t actually help people right?
I do think it needs to be harder to get, I think it definitely needs to be better regulated in states like California as nothing ticks me off more then how many people are abusing the medication and getting access to it for every head ache or paper cut they get just because they want to get stoned but that doesn’t mean we should make it illegal because we don’t want to put a little more effort into the regulation of this medication. If we could better regulate medical Marijuana then maybe we could abandon the image that has grown to stick with the concept of medical Marijuana: A bunch of stupid kids coming up with dumb excuses to get their medical Marijuana cards so they can get high while listing to Bob Marley.
As Dr. Oz stated at the end of his show, “Medical Marijuana should be use to give people their life back, it should not be use to take people away from life”.
Watch the debate on the Dr. Oz Show!
To visit his website and watch the clips.