In 1936, a FICTIONAL documentary was released about the addictive nature of marijuana. It was called “Reefer Madness”. I was unaware, as probably most people, that the alarmist anti-pot propaganda was re-released as a movie musical in 2005. Admittedly, I could only tolerate watching even the original movie for about ten minutes, which was ten minutes I would never get back in my life. Over my lifetime though, I have seen plenty of films using marijuana, pot, hash, cannabis, whatever you want to call the plant. And I had never seen anyone smoking pot in these films as anything more than just real happy. One of my favorite movies is “The Breakfast Club” and there is a scene where the students, who are locked in the library on a Saturday morning for detention, the “stoner” in the film invites all the others to partake in his stash. It was one of the best scenes in the movie, because for one brief moment, the walls separating all of their differences with each other were brought down, allowing them all to enjoy that moment laughing with each other, without any form of discrimination.
I do not want this post to be about recreational use of marijuana. I am forty eight years old and in my lifetime I have never heard of anyone dying from using marijuana. While I do not smoke pot, I am not against anyone wanting to smoke it. I know I would rather inhale second hand pot smoke than second hand cigarette smoke and die. At least I will not get cancer from marijuana.
Over the summer, I moved to Florida. One of several states that has yet to legalize medical use of marijuana. There are some instances that Florida will allow it, but in general, it has not been legalized in Florida. There is a proposition, called #2 on the ballot for this Fall’s election. I fully support the medical use of marijuana, and I want to encourage anyone reading this post to share it. And if you live in a state that has not made that leap to medicinal use of marijuana and is waiting for an election to do so, it is time to get over the false stigma of marijuana use to allow needless suffering of patients.
Cigarettes kill. Alcohol kills. Texting while driving kills. But this is tolerated because it benefits big companies like Tobacco, Alcohol, and of course the big telecommunication companies.
Chemotherapy has the ability to kill. Depression meds have the potential to make you suicidal. Blood pressure pills can kill. Pain medicines can lead to death. And then of course there is the overdosing of sleeping pills. But this is okay because big pharm companies only care about the health of the patients that take the meds and want you to trust that their drug is best for you.
But marijuana does not kill. Hmmm… what big companies have a stake in marijuana? Well evidently, now some pharm reps are recognizing the national movement to legalizing medical marijuana and want to be first in line to build their plants. After all, big pharm stands to be the biggest loser in the legalization of medical marijuana because many patients would no longer need the pharmacy company’s overpriced drugs and would need to replace their revenue with something. And of course, with approval and success of the medicinal marijuana companies, I agree, it probably would not be long before we followed Colorado and Washington state and legalizing recreational use because once the factories are already established, in theory they would have the biggest jump on mass production.
There is a problem however. The United States has not legalized the use of medical marijuana. Instead, they simply allow each state to make the decision, and then the Feds are encouraged to concentrate on more severe issues. So if it is prescribed, in theory, you could face Federal charges for medical use of marijuana, but not likely. And if your state approves the medical use of marijuana, that should be the end of the story. But now it is coming out, well in advance of the election, communities are passing their own regulations, regardless of what the election results are. Local politicians suffering from NIMBY (not in my back yard) are already passing regulations to deny any medicinal pot shop to open within city limits. They hide behind the “we don’t need the element that marijuana will bring to our community” attitude. They totally do not mention the issues with illegal pot use for people who just want to get happy. But they are against a drug that would benefit patients who are suffering from severe and painful maladies (physically and emotionally) such as ALS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, MS (multiple sclerosis), and other maladies.
So how bad is marijuana? I have already stated that it is nowhere near as deadly as the big three I listed earlier, cigarettes, alcohol, and texting while driving, and none of those are illegal for recreational use and provide no medicinal benefit. But let us take a look at some classes of prescription drugs and compare their side effects to that of medicinal marijuana. You be the judge of which would be more beneficial and safe, and most importantly, improve the quality of life for a person suffering with their morbidity or mortality.
Treating Nausea, Loss Of Appetite, Vomiting, Weight Loss, Muscle Atrophy
The following side effects of common drugs to treat these issues are listed as follows (from Drugs.com):
- Bloating or swelling of the face, arms, hands, lower legs, or feet, blurred vision, dizziness, headache, nervousness, pounding in the ears
- rapid weight gain, slow or fast heartbeat, tingling of the hands or feet, unusual weight gain or loss
Incidence not known (this means that you won’t necessarily be told about these issues on the warning label of the drug)
- Abdominal or stomach pain, agitation, black, tarry stools, bleeding gums, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
- blood in the urine or stools, chest pain, coma, constipation, continuing vomiting, convulsions, dark-colored urine
- decreased urine output, depression, fainting, fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
- general feeling of tiredness or weakness, high fever, high or low blood pressure, hostility, increased sweating
- indigestion, infection from breathing foreign substances into the lungs, itching, lethargy, light-colored stools
- lip smacking or puckering, loss of consciousness, muscle twitching (MS sufferers have enough problem with this)
- no blood pressure, no breathing, no pulse, numbness or tingling in the face, arms, or legs
- pain in the stomach, side, or abdomen, possibly radiating to the back, pain or swelling in the arms or legs without any injury
- pain, tension, and weakness upon walking that subsides during periods of rest, pinpoint red spots on the skin
- pounding, slow heartbeat, puffing of the cheeks, rapid or worm-like movements of the tongue
- rapid weight gain, recurrent fainting, red irritated eyes, red skin lesions, often with a purple center
- seizures, severe constipation, severe headache, severe muscle stiffness, severe vomiting
- sores, ulcers, or white spots in the mouth or on the lips, stupor, sudden severe weakness
- swelling of the face, ankles, or hands, total body jerking, trouble with speaking or walking
- troubled breathing, twitching, twisting, or uncontrolled repetitive movements of the tongue, lips, face, arms, or legs
- uncontrolled chewing movements, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusually pale skin
- vomiting (HEY! Wait a minute! If you are taking this to reduce vomiting and nausea…)
- yellow eyes and skin
The list actually continues. Call me a silly goose, but if I am already suffering from side effects, why would I risk taking something that could actually make it worse for me, when all I would have to do is pop a pill, or even pack a pipe, or eat a cookie with the medicinal marijuana?
Let us take a look at another drug class, for depression. The object is to make the person not sad anymore right? Here are some side effects of common antidepressants (according to Drugs.com):
- agitation, chest congestion, chest pain, chills, cold sweats, confusion, difficulty with breathing, dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up from a lying or sitting position
- fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse, muscle pain or weakness, absence of or decrease in body movements, bigger, dilated, or enlarged pupils (black part of the eye)
- convulsions (seizures), difficulty with speaking, dry mouth, fever, inability to move the eyes
- incomplete, sudden, or unusual body or facial movements, increased sensitivity of the eyes to light, poor coordination
- red or purple patches on the skin, restlessness, shivering, sweating, talking, feeling, and acting with excitement and activity you cannot control
- trembling or shaking, or twitching, back, leg, or stomach pains, blindness, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin
- blue-yellow color blindness, blurred vision, constipation, cough or hoarseness, dark urine
- decreased frequency or amount of urine, decreased vision, difficulty with swallowing
- electric shock sensations, eye pain, fainting, general body swelling
- headache, high fever, hives, inability to move the arms and legs, inability to sit still, increased thirst
- incremental or ratchet-like movement of the muscle, itching skin, joint pain, light-colored stools
- lockjaw, loss of appetite, loss of bladder control, low blood pressure, lower back or side pain
- muscle spasm, especially of the neck and back, muscle tension or tightness, painful or difficult urination
- painful or prolonged erection of the penis, pale skin, puffiness or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
- raised red swellings on the skin, the buttocks, legs, or ankles, red, irritated eyes, sensitivity to the sun
- skin redness or soreness, slow heart rate, sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or in the mouth
- spasms of the throat, stiff muscles, stomach pain, sudden numbness and weakness in the arms and legs
- swelling of the breasts, swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs, swollen or painful glands
- tightness in the chest, unexpected or excess milk flow from the breasts, unusual bleeding or bruising
- unusual tiredness or weakness, vomiting, weight gain, yellowing of the eyes or skin
The list continues on and on. But also includes “may create or increase thoughts of suicide”. Isn’t that why you take an antidepressant so that you do not have those thoughts in the first place?
No matter the class of drugs that are supposed to help ease our pains, help us sleep, keep us calm and happy, make our heart pump properly, every drug carries with it a similar list of things that could go wrong taking it. We are willing to risk our lives taking big pharm’s prescription drugs. Marijuana is not without its risks, but nowhere near the level of prescription drugs or the way marijuana has been demonized.
I did not have the option of using medicinal marijuana when I was dealing with nausea back when I dealt with my cancer. I had plenty of friends who were willing to help me with this if I ever made the choice to do so. I did not have the option of using medicinal marijuana when I was recovering from my heart surgery, or dealing with the many painful issues of my long term survival. But I am sure that would have been better than taking all the opiates and other addictive pain killers to control my pain. Do not get me wrong, I needed my pain controlled and I am thankful that those meds did their job.
But as I watched my brother-in-law whittle away to nothing but a shell from the ALS that would take his life, as I watched my father fade away in extreme pain to lung cancer, I cannot help but wonder, how much more humane the ends of their lives would have been, had it been legal to give them medicinal marijuana. My father towards the end had been given Marinol, a form of the medicinal marijuana which was meant to increase his appetite which had dwindled down to nothing. It did help with the appetite, but was not enough to deal with the pain.
It would be a shame to deny another humane option to treat those who suffer from painful debilitating and fatal issues, just because someone else is suffering from NIMBY when in reality, the majority of us already have it in our backyards currently illegally. But where are the people screaming about enforcing the law on illegal pot smokers (I do not suggest that because I believe our system is bogged down enough on this particular war on drugs)? And if you do not support medical marijuana because you are afraid of the seeking and approval of recreational marijuana, then you are unnecessarily making people with ALS, cancer, MS,Alzheimer’s and many more suffer from their diseases.
It is my hope that Florida residents do vote “YES” to Prop 2, legalizing medicinal marijuana. There are just too many ill people who would benefit from its use.