Marijuana for Medicinal Use
Marijuana for Medicinal Use
Marijuana, or Cannabis, is a plant used for medical or recreational use. It is often used as medicine or as a psychoactive drug. The medicinal use is for various eye diseases, and other viruses and infections. A psychoactive drug is a drug that has some type of effect on the central nervous system and the brain. The legalization of marijuana is a controversial topic that has been argued over for many years and will more than likely ongoing for many years to come. Whether or not marijuana should be legal normally varies from country to country, whereas in the United States, it varies from state to state. Medicinal use of marijuana became widely popular in the 1990’s due to many states developing their own legislation to protect prescribers, suppliers, and demanders. In 1972, marijuana was placed in the Schedule 1 category of the Controlled Substances Act by the United States government considering the fact that marijuana has no intention for medical use at all. The use of marijuana for medical purposes has become a more popular concept by several states, politicians, and medical experts putting the federal government in a precarious position. According to Longest Jr. (2015), “The public laws or amendments pertaining to health are initiated by the interactions of diverse health-related problems, possible solutions, and dynamic political circumstances that relate to the problems and to their potential solutions. Before the policymaking process can progress, some mechanism must initiate the emergence of certain problem-solution combinations and their subsequent movement through the development-of-legislation process” (p. 87). With the growing number of support from those in the public and increasing presence of evidence-based research it has become an issue for congress. Legislators in many states have begun enacting protections for their citizens that use marijuana for medical purposes. The number of states doing so is expected to increase substantially over the next decades. Almost half of the states in America have created laws to decriminalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Five states allow their citizens to have recreational use of marijuana. Some type of “lawful conduct” or “lawful product” statute arguably applies to lawful uses of marijuana in approximately 30 states, which reflect a remarkable change of what the public thinks about the use of marijuana. Yet, using marijuana is still a crime according to the federal Controlled Substance Act. For employers, discrimination is prohibited by other broad state statues; they are based on lawful activities their employees engage in when they are not on duty or in the workplace (Gies & Grant, 2015, p. 35). This paper will explore my personal position on medicinal marijuana legislation, the federal government’s role in the issue concerning the use of medicinal marijuana, context of legislation, describe expected interest groups and interplay between these groups, and state a personal strategic policy to enhance or diffuse public policy environment results. Medicinal marijuana is ultimately a very controversial issue for some, but has made a stronghold in American society over the past decades. Due to the fact that legislation is at odds with healthcare professionals is something that is controversial in itself. The role of government should ultimately be limited with regards to physician recommendations and what is decided by the states.
Legislation: Demander and Suppliers
After going through the eight-factor analysis required for rescheduling: (1) Actual or relative potential for abuse, (2) Scientific evidence of pharmacological effect, (3) Current scientific knowledge regarding the substance, (4) History and current pattern of abuse, (5) Scope, duration, and significance of abuse, (6) Risk to public health, (7) Psychic or physiological dependence liability, and (8) Immediate precursor of a substance already controlled; the HHS decided that marijuana did not meet the criteria for being a medicine. Bona Fide medical research must determine if a substance is medicine, not political process (DEA keeps marijuana illegal but encourages more research into medical use, 2016, p. 6). If legislation would move Marijuana from a Schedule 1 category to a Schedule III category under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), this would place marijuana into a category of drugs that are found to have medical value and grant healthcare providers the opportunity to recommend marijuana to patients for medicinal use. Through legislation, healthcare providers cultivating the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes should be required to obtain permits from their state and meet certain rules and regulations that ensure efficacy and safety standards for use. Like the many states that have already enacted medical marijuana laws, this will create opportunity for new business and revenue within each state that provides marijuana as a prescription. Congress should pass legislation that clearly states they are not legalizing marijuana for recreational use, but for medicinal purposes only.
The main individuals in public policy that allow laws to move are the demanders and suppliers. “The demanders of health policies include those individuals who consider health policies relevant to the pursuit of their own health or others they care for, and individuals who consider policies to be a means for some other desired end like, economic advantage” (Longest Jr., 2015, p. 64). This includes interest groups, medical groups, organizations, and healthcare providers looking to decrease the governments control on marijuana. Suppliers are considered to be anyone that uses legislators to enact their preferred policies or individuals that offer policies in the form of legislative proposals. Expected suppliers have many of the same attributes and opinions as demanders concerning marijuana operations. There are different suppliers in state and federal government. The United States government biggest supplier is the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA normally punishes companies of drugs that they haven’t approved for making health claims. So far, they have not done so for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-bearing marijuana. This may be because under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (namely, a nonfood product that is intended to affect the structure or function of the body) marijuana meets the criteria of begin a drug (Caulkins, 2018, pg. 20). The FDA has not approved the natural form of marijuana, but has approved synthetic versions of the drug. I believe that the FDA is aware that there are several interests in marijuana and its use as treatment for certain diseases. The FDA relies on the public and their concerns about the absence or availability of marijuana as an option for medical use. The FDA has created their own classification method for different drugs which is a part of the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. They have been working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to find other statistical data for different drugs. FDA is a part of Health and Human Services (HHS) and has different views on the uses of marijuana.
Expected Interest Groups and their Demands
Due to influences on public policymaking process, interest groups such as, advocacy groups, lobby groups, pressure groups, and special interest groups are enhanced through a collective action in the policy market to achieve a particular outcome (Longest Jr., 2015, p. 65). Different interest groups have specific arguments about legalizing marijuana. There are several interest groups for and against the idea of legalizing marijuana. Several groups for marijuana advocacy as well as physician groups would make strong arguments for marijuana and its medicinal value. Evidence-based research is coming out every day presenting strong evidence of medical benefits of marijuana which places a strong foothold on their stance for legalization of marijuana.
One interest group that is for the legalization of marijuana is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). NORML has a mission to move public opinion sufficiently and allow legalization of responsible use of marijuana by adults, and serve as advocate to ensure that consumers have access to convenient, safe, affordable, high-quality marijuana. NORML had locations all around the world that support the adoption of a legally controlled marijuana market. They would like for individuals to be able to purchase marijuana for personal use from a safe and legal source (NORML, 2017, p. 1). They have been around for many years to educate individuals on how to use marijuana in a responsible way and fighting for the ability to purchase and use marijuana without being penalized for use of it. Consistently, they have been building their supporters and debating for this cause which has extended their interest groups to different chapters across various states and countries such as Canada, Norway, and South Africa. The purpose of this interest group is to allow adults to obtain and use marijuana in a responsible manner.
On the other hand, there is the opposite side of the spectrum. There are several opposing groups that are against legalization of marijuana. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids formally known as Partnership for a Drug-Free America is an organization that opposes the legalization of marijuana. They have been around since the mid-1980’s, started by a small group of advertising professionals. This organization feels that drug use is a growing epidemic. Their plan is to unsell the concept of using drugs. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has collaborated with several different groups to fight against legislation approving the legalization of marijuana (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 2018, p. 1).
In the United States, police create larger budgets by using the federal war against drugs. They create unions as an effort to take down prop 19, which in California is legalized marijuana. They receive millions in grants for the eradication of marijuana. On a federal level, they lobby and push for harsher penalties for marijuana related offenses. Private prisons have made tons of money by jailing and incarcerating many individuals for drug offenses associated with the use of marijuana, and has spent millions of dollars to pass stiffer punishments for drug related offenses. One of the biggest for-profit institutions, Correction Corporation of America showed that the war on drugs was an intricate part of their business plan and strategy. The Prison Guard Union is against legalizing marijuana because it would decrease the number of prison guards needed if less people are incarcerated on these types of drug charges. Tobacco and alcohol companies have lobbied against the legalization of marijuana due to the fact they fear people will spend more money on marijuana than on tobacco and alcohol. Pharmaceutical companies also want to keep marijuana illegal so that citizens of the United States do not have other options for alternative medical treatments.
Interplay in the Public Policy Environment
In the public policy environment, there is interplay between demanders, supplier, and interest groups. The outcomes or results of some of these participants in the policy market depend on their relative abilities to influence behaviors, actions, and decisions of other participants (Longest Jr., 2015, p. 76). The public policy environment for marijuana is interesting due to the fact that it is not what we expect to see. We expect to see a strong cooperative interplay between the demanders, suppliers, and interest groups associated with legalization of marijuana. Elected officials will act according to their beliefs as well as the beliefs of their constituents. Ensuring that they select the right position and make a strong stance is very important and solidifies their ability to be reelected. Like any opposing groups, those for and against the legalization of marijuana will present arguments of safety and efficacy of marijuana as a legal medicine. Special interest groups that oppose the legalization of marijuana do so because they fear the effects associated with how they operate their business. The special interest group that represent for individuals suffering from illness and disease advocate for the legalization of marijuana in all states so people will not be categorized as criminals and incarcerated for utilizing medical marijuana.
Individuals, organizations, and the government are the key participants in the public policy environment with the common interest of money. If pharmaceutical, tobacco, and alcohol companies are able to capitalize on the legalization of marijuana in every state, there would be a positive interplay for medical marijuana dispensaries. Due to the fact that they cannot capitalize on the legalization of marijuana, they continue to misguide the public and bring up dangers of marijuana to protect their profits. Healthcare providers that treat individuals with medical marijuana have to be very careful as they may face obstacles that might not occur to providers using traditional medications for treatment. Since marijuana is illegal federally, patients in approved states are discouraged from giving a complete medical history. If a doctor is unaware that an individual is using medical marijuana, they may cause a drug interaction when prescribing other pharmaceutical medications or drugs. Storage, handling, and disposal of medical marijuana are also a concern when looking at possession of a controlled substance. Due to prohibition of marijuana, healthcare providers fear they will be persecuted. In order to adhere to state and federal laws, the proper public policies have to be created to avoid any trouble.
Organizations involved with the legalization of marijuana believe that the crime rate in the United States cities and towns would decrease. They base this belief upon the success of the Netherlands when they wide-spread the legalization of marijuana, and had a reduction in crime. Organizations also believe that by legalizing marijuana in the United States, it will help the economy in a number of ways. It will help increase revenues and save on taxes, and reduce prison costs. The legalization of Marijuana will increase revenue for sellers and the government as they will be able to tax the sale of marijuana since it is legal, the number of growers will increase which will increase revenue, and the industry of legal marijuana will bring in billions of dollars due to hospital and other organizations purchases which will result in an economic advantage.
The government would be able to set prices and regulations on marijuana with the overall legalization. The price would decrease because the drug is legal and no longer stand the risk of production and transportation associated with illegal drugs. The decrease in crime would clear up police and court resources for more serious crimes. Resources and cost for DEA, FBI, border security, police officers, judges, public defenders, juries, prosecutors, prison guards, court reporters, and so on will decrease. This would allow these people to focus on more serious matters such as terrorism, murder, and rape. This will reduce the wait time for other legitimate court cases and improve overloaded civil court docket. Through various demanders, suppliers, and interest groups against the prohibition of marijuana all work together. According to Longest Jr. (2015), “Health policies, like other domains, are made in the context of policy markets, where demanders for and suppliers of policies interact. The federal, state, and, to the lesser extent, local governments have important health policy roles” (p. 79).
The strategic policy of this paper is to address the numerous people against the prohibition of marijuana for medical purposes, and the necessary need for legalization of the drug for individuals with medical needs and not for pleasure. Based on the arguments, both sides need a clear solution to be drawn about the legalization of marijuana. Legalization of marijuana to honor the majority of the population that believe legalization will eliminate the issue of who is using marijuana for medical purposes and who is using marijuana for recreational purposes. Marijuana has a history of no known deaths, and should not be classified as a hardcore drug as with other drugs that you may actually have the ability to overdose on. The first step is the legalization of marijuana and must be pursued rigorously to eliminate any opposition or vote out of office.
Numerous states have made the decision to legalize marijuana due to its medical purposes. Medical marijuana proven by doctors to help decrease nausea, reduce pain, and even increase the appetite of patient suffering from diseases that affect their appetite. Healthcare providers believe it is beneficial for patients who suffer with Multiple Sclerosis (MS); because they suffer from chronic pain and it helps calm their nerves. Many providers are all for the use of medical marijuana, but some are against it. Those against it believe that it can cause lung cancer and other associated respiratory problems.
The government is considering changing policy in favor of legalizing the marijuana plant Cannabis sativa due to research burgeoning in the medical marijuana field (Campbell, 2016, p. 822). Producing high quality research can change a lot of challenges and key policies in local and federal government. Research is the core that will distinguish to the public the need for legalization of marijuana and its public policy. Clarifying the focus of research by emphasizing public policy that supports medical marijuana objectively informs and educates the public. Public policy encourages legalization of marijuana through activities within the community, with healthcare providers, and law enforcement. Media outlets need to cover the benefits of legalizing marijuana for medical use which will increase communication to voters and decriminalize marijuana. News coverage is the best way to communicate without the high cost of advertisement. This coverage is the best way to grow public support for the legalization of marijuana. Putting in place an initiative that educates non-supporters and the public would help increase the number of supporters if they had a better understanding of the benefits. There needs to be infrastructure and reform of current outdated marijuana legislations.
Thanks to interest groups, medical marijuana is legal in many different states including Washington D.C. and is expected to grow in the future. Many interest groups work with patient advocates and medical marijuana users to enact medical marijuana laws in other states. Work is now in progress in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Nebraska for efforts to legalize medical marijuana. The main focus is to decriminalize marijuana and now in some states such as Illinois, marijuana possession has become just a ticket instead of incarceration. Currently, they are trying to apply the same concept for marijuana in New Hampshire and Texas. Lobbying to legalize marijuana is happening all over the United States. At least eight states have proposals in place. There is a campaign to lead a coalition in support of state wide legalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, Nevada, Arizona, and Main. Three of these states passed measures to legalize marijuana whereas; Arizona received a little under half of the vote to legalize marijuana in their state. In 2016, the state of California initiated the official federal legalization of marijuana.
The groundwork is continuing to be made in Congress to discontinue the federal prohibition of marijuana. As more states follow the trend of legalizing marijuana, more politicians get behind the idea. The first task at hand is realizing that times have changed and knowledge has improved, which means that our laws must improve with it. Marijuana should be rescheduled to Schedule 2 or 3 in order to pave the way for more states to fully legalize marijuana. These actions have benefits that many haven’t realized. This could reduce trafficking and as a result, reduce the danger associated with possession of marijuana. Many people die every year due to the dangers associated with the selling and buying of marijuana and other illegal drugs, making marijuana legal reduces and even eliminates the existence of the dangerous underground market of marijuana. The main purpose of my argument is to allow legal freedom for healthcare providers who recommend marijuana within their medical expertise to the patients for therapeutic use, treatment, and pain management. This will allow marijuana to become an option for treatment and benefit a large number of patients that fit into a certain category. Decriminalizing marijuana gives patients in possession of marijuana a chance to prove that they are taking marijuana for health related reasons recommended to them by their healthcare provider, and prevents them from being arrested and charged with penalties of possession of an illegal drug or substance. Therefore, we can actually use the knowledge we gain as a country by putting our trust in scientists they tell us to put our faith in and create public policies that support legalization of marijuana, instead of punishing our innocent citizens for possessing an illegal drug recommend by a trained and skilled professional that should not be illegal in the first place. Ever since the industrial revolution, the country has thrived on improvements associated with the advancements through scientific knowledge. To continue the trend, the country should reflect the advancement in knowledge associated medical marijuana. Twenty-one states including Washington D.C. have stopped the incarceration of individuals or possession of marijuana. Eight states have made marijuana legal for individuals age 21 or older. Thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana by just giving out fines or citations instead of incarcerating users, which allows them to avoid getting any criminal records associated with the use of medical marijuana.
As with any health policy or legislation there will be resistance and support for change. A vital factor to creating health policy is having an understanding of how important the government’s role is when creating healthcare policy. Scientific research and physician recommendations should never be overpowered by any opinions of politicians and bureaucrats. Due to the fact that marijuana has a lack of reported deaths associated with its use, makes it a non-dangerous drug. Marijuana should not be a Schedule 1 controlled substance like other drugs such as heroin and cocaine which can cause overdose and other debilitating effects. Many doctors and healthcare providers have seen benefits from the contributions of medical marijuana. Policies and restrictions against marijuana have been placed by the federal government. Many citizens of the United States feel that marijuana should be legalized in all states. Informal declaration by Congress and the President of the United States says that federal prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries will continue to cease as long as they operate according to set rules and regulations. Congress is on the threshold of passing legislation that omits the use of federal funds to prosecute for usage of marijuana. There are many interest groups such as the tobacco and alcohol groups that do not want to see the legalization of marijuana because it will decrease the amount of customers they have an disturb their cash flow. Patients that suffer from different illness should be allowed to use marijuana without being penalized or prosecuted for using it. Interplay is predictive of money, interest, and power of interest groups and certain organizations pay to stop legalization of marijuana while others advocate for use of the substance. The DEA and other federal organizations continue to fight with medical marijuana dispensaries about the laws of medical marijuana. When drug-free work policies are challenged by employees, courts continually rule in the favor of the employer, not considering the fact that state marijuana laws could provide protection for employees (Harvey, 2015, p. 233). It all boils down to money; even the DEA reaps the benefits of incarcerating individuals for the use of marijuana. Every organization that has opposed the legalization of marijuana is trying to protect their profits. They use campaigns to mislead the public by bringing up potential dangers associated with the use of marijuana. The strategic policy includes absolute legalization of marijuana in all 50 states to appease the bulk of individuals that reside in the United States. Any opposition should be stomped out. Finding the appropriate balance between control and public policy on a federal level helps prevent the overall negative effects on the population. Major healthcare policies such as this are very hard to get passed due to past beliefs and other stigmas. The entire nation is affected by policy change of this magnitude. It is imperative to ensure the benefits of medicinal marijuana use to those in need, and provide a solution to the fear of those who oppose this policy. By getting in contact with Congress and our state senators, we can push to have marijuana legalized in this country.