In 15 states across the country, including Florida, ballot measures or legislation are currently pending to legalize medical marijuana. In 20 states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana use is already legal. And public support ranges from 60% to nearly 80% in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, according to various recent national polls.1
But why is this? Why should marijuana be legal?
Public Support for Legal Medical Marijuana in Florida
In Florida, legalizing medical marijuana is supported by as many as 70% of voters, according to a poll by the Miami Herald. Backers cross party lines, as the poll indicates a majority of Democrats, Independents and Republicans are in favor. The Orlando and Miami metropolitan areas have the most voters who plan to say “yes” on to making medical marijuana legal in Florida.
Still, many Florida voters are against or undecided about amending the state constitution to legalize marijuana for medical use. Learning more about the history and use of medical marijuana can help voters make informed decisions.
Why Should Marijuana Be Legal?
Background of Medical Marijuana
Marijuana, which is known by its biological name Cannabis, has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In Western medicine, marijuana’s therapeutic properties have been embraced since the mid-1800s. In 1843, William O’Shaughnessy, a British Army physician documented his use of cannabis oil to successfully treat convulsions in an infant.
Cannabis remained In the U.S. pharmacopoeia until 1941, when Congress passed the “Marihuana Tax Act” and hampered physicians from prescribing it to their patients. Today, cancer patients, people living with AIDS and MS, and parents of children who suffer from serious convulsions have been active in the fight to legalize medical marijuana use for themselves, their children and others who can benefit.
Benefits of Using Medical Marijuana
Marijuana has been shown to relieve a large number of symptoms stemming from serious and chronic medical conditions and diseases, as well as side effects from the treatments for these conditions. Cannabis benefit aid patients when used in the following applications:
- As a pain reliever.
- To increase appetite in patients with anorexia, cancer, AIDs or dementia.
- As a treatment for nausea and vomiting.
- To relieve intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.
- As a treatment for convulsions in epilepsy patients.
- To treat movement disorders and muscle spasms.
- As an anxiety treatment.
- To treat migraines.
- As a relief for symptoms of Tourette’s Syndrome.
A considerable patient benefit is that cannabis can treat these and many other symptoms with a high level of safety. Cannabis is non-toxic, and there has never been a recorded death from an overdose.
Physicians Weigh in on Medical Marijuana
One of America’s most famous physicians is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent. He recently wrote a public apology for not adequately researching the medical benefits of marijuana, as well as for writing articles dismissing its potential, and for his role in misleading people about its benefits. He now says, “I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care . . . care that often may involve marijuana.”
Other physicians agree. According to a 2013 poll of physicians worldwide published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 76% of those surveyed believe that the overall medicinal benefits of marijuana outweigh the risks and potential harms.2
Those who oppose prescribing marijuana pointed out a lack of evidence or uncertainty over the sources and dosing of cannabis. Others say that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that less harmful alternatives exist.
Medical Marijuana Used Across America
Countless seriously ill Americans have determined for themselves that medical marijuana provides benefits they cannot find elsewhere; and in more and more states, they are able to make that determination without breaking the law.
In states where medical marijuana is legal, patients have access to safe sources, while the state regulates growing and selling of the drug. Many families are moving to Colorado and other legal-access states to provide their children relief from seizures and other debilitating conditions. Some have chosen Colorado for the availability of certain strains of medical marijuana, such as “Charlotte’s Web,” which is lower in THC—which causes the marijuana “high”—and higher in other beneficial compounds.
Charlotte’s Web was named for a seven-year-old girl who suffered from hundreds of seizures each week, and was the first child in Colorado to be treated with medical cannabis. For the past two years, her seizures have been 99% controlled, and she can walk, talk and eat again—skills she had lost before cannabis treatment.
Legalizing Medical Marijuana in Florida
Legalizing medical marijuana enjoys widespread support from Florida voters, the American public and many in the medical community. Its benefits have been well documented, and researchers are continuously studying cannabis, both to find additional therapeutic uses, and discover links to potential health risks. Studies have shown that smoking marijuana is not linked to an increased risk of lung cancer.3
Soon, voters will decide whether legal marijuana for medical use will be an option in the state of Florida.
What is your opinion on medical marijuana? Are you for or against legalization? Leave your comment below.
3Science Daily, 05.26.2006