A reader writes:
In response to your recent post, "Prohibition Withers," let me preface this by saying that I am not a doctor, but a 21 year old medical researcher and biochemistry student. With regard to marijuana, I hold no abject feelings toward its use. I personally do not use it, but have had many friends that do and my response is a resounding, "Meh." It doesn't bother me. I am all for the legalization and taxation of marijuana. While it is not without adverse effects, they seem to me to be no worse than tobacco and alcohol, if not less so.
That said, as a Michigan resident, I opposed the medicinal marijuana law for a few reasons.
The first is on a municipal and legal basis. Partial legalization of marijuana for medicinal use creates a major headache for law enforcement officers, who will now need to distinguish between those who legally smoke and those who do not, those who legally grow and those who do not, etc. Such distinctions will lead to a legal nightmare that will be a drain on personnel and on tax dollars that will need to go toward supporting the enforcement of medicinal marijuana. The law itself is a legal nightmare as the article you link to points out when it speaks of the legal holes and inconsistencies of the law.
Beyond the legal issues, and perhaps more pertinent, are the actual medical bases for its use. While there is anecdotal evidence for the use of marijuana to relieve pain among other issues, there is no research either proving or disproving this. In fact, there is very little real research at all regarding the use of marijuana. While many point to this as a rationale for the use of marijuana, the medical and scientific community does not work in this way. The only research I have found are poorly conducted observational studies that many agree provide no useful evidence for or against marijuana use. Just as other pharmaceuticals are not approved until scientific studies have proven their effectiveness, neither should marijuana.
Until real controlled studies using candidates smoking marijuana (as opposed to derivative drugs, some of which are available in Canada and other countries) assess the pain managing effectiveness, the short- and long-term effects of its use, and its effectiveness against some diseases, I cannot support the prescription of marijuana for medical conditions. Admittedly this is difficult under federal prohibition of marijuana in research, which must change, but prescription of any medication without clear scientific support for its safety and effectiveness seems unethical and dangerous.
Under a broad legalization of marijuana, this particular legal nightmare would be avoided, and patients who want to use marijuana for their conditions would be able to without the ethical implications of a doctor prescribing or allowing it without evidence. Partial legalization for medicinal use (without medical basis) creates a far worse condition than broad prohibition or legalization. If we are to legalize marijuana at all, we must do so completely or else not do it at all.
Maybe my reder would benefit from reading the masses of medical research on the subject collected here. I too find the distinction between medical and recreational marijuana to be largely specious and a function of Western culture's often schizophrenic attitude toward pleasure. But this is a start. And with any luck, it will lead to police departments' dropping their stupid fixation on these stupid laws.