Some people like to say that if marijuana is medicine, it should be regulated, prepared, and treated as such. There are many that would even argue that there is really no other legitimate reason for utilizing marijuana, and using it recreationally is nearly the same as popping pills, or drinking alcohol, at best. Or worse, that it’s like taking other illicit drugs just for fun. This view of cannabis is both shortsighted and unfair, both toward the plant itself and to humankind as a whole. It is well documented that cannabis has many uses; from the textiles, paper, oil, fuel, and hemp seed foods derived from cannabis that is cultivated as hemp, to the medical, recreational, and spiritual use of various preparations derived from the psychoactive version of it that most refer as marijuana.
All of this can make the question of legalizing marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes, or both, quite tricky. In the United States, people are used to thinking of medicine in terms of prescriptions, which are carefully concocted and dosed according to strict guidelines. Drugs produced in this manner must first be approved by the FDA and are heavily regulated due to the risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose. With marijuana, none of this applies, but its use is not approved by the FDA, nor is it even allowable by law, except in states that have medical marijuana provisions on the books. Obviously there is risk of abuse with marijuana, but the subject of marijuana addiction is debatable. However, there is absolutely no risk of overdose, as it is a relatively safe herbal medicine that can be used to treat quite a variety of ailments. Really, it is not unlike many other “unapproved” herbal supplements, except that it is much more potent and has some intoxicating effects that we don’t exactly understand.
One of the main issues that creates a problem for making marijuana legal in any sense is the amount of ignorance and misinformation that still persists. Some still use the tired old phrase that marijuana is a “gateway drug,” which is a theory that holds no real significance, other than its use as a propaganda tool over the years. Marijuana doesn’t make anyone more likely to use any other substances than does alcohol or nicotine, and its legal status alone is what is most likely responsible for causing it to be associated with other illegal drugs. Many encounter harder drugs when they encounter marijuana simply because they are all illegal. There is also the misconception that marijuana’s intoxicating quality is similar to that of alcohol. However, anyone who has experience with both substances knows that alcohol is much more inebriating and has a much greater effect on motor skills and critical thinking abilities.
Other issues involved in legalization are the questions of appropriate use and health effects of using marijuana regularly. Some may be concerned that smoking marijuana while pregnant may be detrimental to the unborn child and the health of the mother as well. There is some question as to whether smoking anything has health benefits at all. But a certain study performed in Jamaica in the nineties that was published in Pediatrics magazine may give some insight on the subject. A study of two groups of pregnant women, one comprised of regular marijuana users, and on made up of non-users, revealed that the babies born to both groups of women didn’t have any significant differences in physical abilities or neurobehavioral activity at first, and after one month, the babies exposed to marijuana in the womb actually had better outcomes than those that had no exposure.
“Although no positive or negative neurobehavioral effects of prenatal exposure were found at 3 days of life using the Brazelton examination, there were significant differences between the exposed and nonexposed neonates at the end of the first month. Comparing the two groups, the neonates of mothers who used marijuana showed better physiological stability at 1 month and required less examiner facilitation to reach an organized state and become available for social stimulation. The results of the comparison of neonates of the heavy-marijuana-using mothers and those of the non-using mothers were even more striking. The heavily exposed neonates were more socially responsive and were more autonomically stable at 30 days than their matched counterparts. The quality of their alertness was higher; their motor and autonomic systems were more robust; they were less irritable; they were less likely to demonstrate any imbalance of tone; they needed less examiner facilitation to become organized; they had better self-regulation; and were judged to be more rewarding for caregivers than the neonates of non-using mothers at 1 month of age.”
This may seem counterintuitive to those who have been lead to believe that marijuana kills brain cells, and that it may inhibit cognitive development in unborn babies, or even that it is linked with lower birth weights. While the science is still unclear, this particular study done in Jamaica seems to show that marijuana use is not only less dangerous than many would like to think, but it may actually be beneficial to unborn babies. Most of the other studies that have been done were conducted using other animals, such as rats, to determine the possible effects of marijuana on babies in utero. Either way, the evidence is still unclear, but there doesn’t appear to be a reason to be frightened by the scare tactics that have continued on. Marijuana is an herbal medicine that offers many healing qualities that can also be protective or preventative, and may offer enhancement of human abilities, even for babies. It may never be officially approved by the FDA, but then again, neither are many of the other herbs and supplements available that have significant health benefits.