Medical marijuana approval on the rise

On Monday July 7, 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act, which allows doctors to prescribe medical marijuana under certain conditions. On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, Washington fulfilled voters’ wishes by opening medical marijuana dispensaries for business.

Which states will be next to legalize marijuana? (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Which states will be next to legalize marijuana? (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

In November 2012, voters in both Washington and Colorado passed legislation that legalizes marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The increase in legislation approving medical cannabis seems to be part of a growing trend among states to legalize marijuana.

Medical marijuana in New York

The bill allowing the use of medical marijuana in New York was passed by the State Assembly and Senate in June 2014. The intent of the bill is to provide relief to thousands of people who suffer from medical conditions such as seizures and cancer.

Opponents to the bill feared that its passage would open the way for abuse by those who use the cover of a medical condition to obtain the drug for recreational use. The Compassionate Care Act includes criminal penalties for those who attempt to defraud the system and the program can be suspended at any time if it is considered to be a public health risk.

Lorenzo Ferrigno and Haimy Assefa explained the issues surrounding the bill in their July 8, 2014, article for CNN.com, “New York legalizes medical marijuana.”

According to Ferrigno and Assefa, “New York will be the 23rd state, along with the District of Columbia, to allow medical marijuana in some form, according to information compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.”

Other states that allow medical marijuana include Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey, which all border New York state. States that have proposed legislation allowing legalization of marijuana include: Alaska, Oregon and Florida.

Marijuana legislation in the U.S.

For an overall look at marijuana legislation in the U.S. consult the book, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, written by Jonathan P. Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark A.R. Kleiman.

The authors assembled information related to the many viewpoints surrounding the question of legalizing marijuana. Their goal was to present the issues clearly and sweep away the myths and false arguments that have been offered on both sides of the debate.

When it comes to marijuana legislation voters have usually been bolder than politicians in their support of legalization. Why is this the case?

According to the authors, “Some voters take a politician’s stances on culturally charged issues as gauges of the politician’s personal character. In the context of negative political advertising, a legislator must consider how any given vote would look if presented in the worst possible light.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta changes sides

One major sign that the tide may be turning in favor of legalized medical marijuana comes from Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medial Correspondent.

In his August 8, 2013, article for CNN.com, “Why I changed my mind on weed,” Dr. Gupta explained his change of heart and the documentary he has made on the subject.

After being a staunch opponent to medical marijuana, Dr. Gupta admits that he didn’t look hard enough at the studies and research. He admitted that he accepted the Drug Enforcement Agency’s listing of marijuana as a schedule 1 substance without looking at the science. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have “no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

“They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications,” Dr. Gupta said.

Other facts that Dr. Gupta uncovered included:

  • A 1944 study by the New York Academy of Science found that marijuana use did not lead to significant addiction.
  • There were hundreds of medical journal articles written between 1843 and 1930 documenting the use of marijuana to treat neuralgia, convulsive disorders and lack of appetite.
  • Most of the current medical studies on the use of medical marijuana have investigated its potential for harm rather than its benefits.
  • While someone dies every 19 minutes in the U.S. from a prescription drug overdose, Dr. Gupta could not find one documented case of a death from a marijuana overdose.

If we need more studies in order to remove marijuana from the list of schedule 1 substances then we will have to look to those done in other countries. Research efforts in the U.S. are hampered by the drug’s illegal status.

You can read about medical marijuana on Questia.

Do you think that marijuana should be legalized in the US? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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