Prevention Connection: Should We Consider Marijuana to be a Medicine?
A 2009 study states 35.2% of Massachusetts 12th grade students use marijuana regularly compared to the national average of 24.6% of 12 grade students.
The following is a guest column by Marilyn G. Belmonte of the Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force:
Nearly one in 10 teenagers smoke marijuana at least 20 times a month, according to the Partnership at Drugfree.org. The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, released in late April, showed that past-month use of marijuana rose from 19 percent in 2008, to 27 percent last year in 2011.
Since Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana in 2008, our state has seen a rise in youth marijuana rates. According to the 2009 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 35.2% of our 12th grade students use marijuana regularly compared to the national average of 24.6% of 12 grade students.
Why are we seeing this rise in teen marijuana use? Surveys show that teen perception of harm from marijuana use has been dropping since states have begun legalizing the “medical use” of marijuana. The general perception is that medicines are safe, therefore if some states consider marijuana to be medicine, then marijuana must be safe.
But unlike all the other prescription medicines and over-the-counter medications in this country, marijuana has never been passed by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All the drugs in our family medicine cabinets had to pass a very strict set of standards to ensure public safety. Not marijuana.
The active ingredient in the marijuana plant is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Some people believe that it helps cancer patients deal with the nausea and loss of appetite caused by chemotherapy; the pressure inside the eye caused by glaucoma; the pain of migraine headaches and other pain. Although there has not been enough research to support this, some states have made marijuana easily available by legalizing its use as “medicinal”.
In those states that have “medical” marijuana, the teen use of marijuana increased, pot shops sell marijuana instead of pharmacies because marijuana is still illegal at a federal level; pot shops sell marijuana, hash, pipes, bongs and marijuana-laced food and candy; crime rates have increased in the neighborhoods with pot shops; students bring their marijuana to school when they need their “medicine” during the school day; and 95% of medical marijuana card holders do not have cancer, glaucoma or other serious illness.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has released a formal statement that more research on the cannabis plant must happen before it will consider marijuana as a medicine. Research is needed in order to determine which chemicals in cannabis are effective for specific ailments; to determine safe doses for patients of all ages; to test for possible side effects that a doctor needs to monitor; and to design a formula that will allow the patient to receive the drug without the harmful effects of smoking.
Visit the Burlington Drug & Alcohol Task Force group page on Facebook for meeting reminders and to learn how you can make a difference.