When dealing with a subject that has the extensive social and moral implications of medicinal marijuana, it is important to have a very open and honest conversation, especially in a country which still enforces prohibition of it. It isn’t just about the ill; it raises several uncomfortable questions about the validity of prohibition in the first place.
For many, the suggestion that marijuana might have any medicinal benefits is often met with skepticism or at the very least, discomfort. The truth is that cannabis is one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine and all parts of the plant, from the seeds to the dried flowers, have proven medicinal uses. Further research shows that 66 of the cannabinoids contained in marijuana can serve a remarkable number of medicinal purposes. These include anti-spasmodics, analgesics, anti-psychotics and antiemetics (which prevent vomiting and nausea). Medicinal marijuana is used to treat epilepsy, depression and insomnia among others. AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis patients have been reported to use it as well.
What about the dangers of marijuana? It should be noted that the lethal dose of marijuana is 10,000 times higher than Valium and most prescription drugs. A person would have to smoke 1,500 pounds of marijuana in under 15 minutes to achieve a lethal dose (not that it would matter; by then you would have suffocated). That’s even less toxic than our drinking water. Furthermore, marijuana also comes without a list of negative side effects associated with most prescription drugs.
Despite all of this information, getting a medicinal marijuana prescription in Canada is becoming increasingly difficult. Instead of being able to discuss the matter publicly, proponents of medicinal marijuana have been told to sit down and shut up. It is a national embarrassment that instead of opening doors for discussion, we stop listening to the users themselves, who have continually praised the plants’ ability to help them cope with pain.
The safe and natural aspects that medical marijuana offers are being neglected because of a stigma that politicians and others have attached to it. The result is that patients are prescribed with medications like Valium, which have a high chance of addiction and can cause long-term biological damage.
It is important for Canadians that we cast off the decades of fear mongering, misinformation and ignorance that has characterized our public perception of marijuana and examine the facts as they are. Health Canada should model its medicinal marijuana laws on those of a few U.S. states, such as Washington and New Jersey, who in 2010 “joined the growing list of jurisdictions where patients can legally obtain medical marijuana,” according to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. In fact, New Jersey opened six alternative treatment centers that were approved by 86 per cent of the state’s population in a poll. Moreover, in traditionally conservative states such as Texas, delegates at the 2010 Democratic Convention voted in support of a resolution to legalize medical marijuana. The resolution pointed out that medical marijuana can ease the symptoms associated with certain medical conditions and treatments, and that taxing the revenue from the sale of the marijuana could help balance the books. If Texas can embrace it, why can’t Harper?