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For & Against: Medical Marijuana

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014

Two students weigh up the pros and cons of medical marijuana

FOR

Words by Allee Richards

I once had a housemate studying neuroscience, who told me stories of inbreeding rats to be as genetically identical as possible for research purposes. This involved culling the un-genetically similar rats, and dosing the surviving rats with drugs. Although not fond of rats, I vowed I would not use medications ‘lazily’ anymore, but only if utterly necessary to prevent serious or terminal illness.

But then I got a migraine and didn’t give a fuck about rats or monkeys anymore; I just wanted my head to no longer feel like it was bursting. The lesson here is that banning substances that make people feel better, even just think they feel better, is ignoring human nature.

Cannabis can be used medicinally to assist nausea associated with chemotherapy, relieve spasticity for Multiple Sclerosis sufferers, help with weight gain for chemotherapy patients and AIDS sufferers, and also for general pain relief. In fact, cannabis is being used to assist all these things, but current use without medical supervision is exacerbating the risks involved.

Marijuana has severe physical and mental side effects and it is addictive, but so do legal and regularly prescribed medications such as morphine, Alprazolum (Xanex) and Oxycodone (Endne).

These are highly addictive painkillers, with significant side effects even with medically supervised use. On the other hand, marijuana will not kill you (although anybody who has ‘greened out’ will warn you to use it cautiously).

Legalising marijuana means a greater chance of controlling and minimising the harm of drug taking. This can ensure quality production, safe dosages, user education on effects and risks—not something a lot of dealers are well versed in—and making it harder for addicts to acquire large quantities.

These systems are already in place for over-the-counter and prescribed medications and for—the most popular drug of all—alcohol!

Some researchers are unconvinced that cannabis helps alleviate symptoms of illness. However, there are other benefits such as ‘the munchies’. It’s important for chemotherapy patients to try to gain weight between chemo treatments. Medical marijuana could be beneficial, if just for that reason alone.

When a family member of mine had cancer, doctors spoke about thinking positive. It’s a hard thing to do and is made harder with the added stresses of engaging in criminal behaviour.

The bill recently put forth to the NSW Parliament was to legalise medical marijuana, not just for a bit of stress or a bit of pain, but for terminally ill patients. These people are dying; what’s the harm in letting them get high and feel a bit better, just let them get high?

AGAINST

Words by Simon Farley

I’d like to begin by saying that I am in no way opposed to the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use. Indeed, I am fully in favour of it. I mean, my dogs’ names are Mary-Jane and Snoop—clearly I don’t have a problem with weed. But medical marijuana? That shit is for chumps of the lowest order: legislative milquetoasts and snake oil peddlers of pseudo-scientific chicanery.

Medical marijuana is the wishy-washy halfway option for governments not brave enough to just legalise it altogether like a bunch of grown-ups. Where medical marijuana is licit, it’s an open secret that thousands of those who partake in it are not afflicted with any serious ailments. If the goal of medi-pot (as it’s sometimes known) is to normalise and legitimise marijuana, restricting its use to the infirm is a completely wrong-headed and craven way of doing so.

To be fair, some advocates earnestly believe that marijuana can reduce the suffering of people living with the gravest illnesses. Patients with cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis can toke the pain and nausea away—surely this is a good thing?

Well, it would be, if it worked. But so far, the studies both individually and collectively have been fairly inconclusive. Moreover, the adverse affects of long-term marijuana use are myriad and can be quite serious—even without wading into the debate surrounding its addictive potential—rendering the whole exercise somewhat counter-productive. For example, cannabinoids have been dispensed to ease the nausea of patients undergoing chemotherapy. You know what else causes nausea? Cannabinoids! So don’t worry about trying to beat cancer because you’re going to be feeling moments away from munting for the rest of your waking life anyway. Another fun side-effect of marijuana is that it weakens the immune system. That’s not a big deal if you’re a fit young person who drinks plenty of orange juice, but not exactly ideal if your immune response has already been obliterated by the ravages of chemotherapy or AIDS.

When it comes to getting better—as opposed to temporarily feeling better—marijuana does, as the kids say, sweet fuck all. In fact, it can destroy a person, body and mind—just ask your decrepit high school art teacher.

‘Sure,’ you say, cynically, like the cynical jerk you are, ‘but what about people with terminal and/or chronic diseases? They’re never going to get better’. Yet euthanasia is a quicker, cheaper and more effective way of relieving that kind of indomitable existential suffering.

Now, I’m not saying that anyone who falls into these categories is better off killing themselves than getting high.

But actually that’s exactly what I’m saying.

If you want to smoke weed legally, advocate for full legalisation (or at least decriminalisation). If you want to ease sick people’s suffering, advocate for euthanasia. Medi-pot promises both these things and fails to fully deliver on either.

Some people will tell you getting blazed is a pointless waste of time. When it comes to medical marijuana, they might be right.

Every month, For & Against will tackle a different issue – some serious, some not so serious. If you have a debate you want to see resolved in Farrago, email us at farragomagazine2014@gmail.com