The United States has a long, storied history with marijuana. Our forefathers knew the benefits of smoking cannabis, and it was popularly used throughout the country’s inception. However, it wasn’t until the late 1800s and early 1900s that the plant began to gain its notoriety.
In 1937, the government passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which criminalized the use of cannabis in nonmedical contexts. Around that time, 23 states outlawed the plant, and by 1970, it was categorized as a Schedule I drug, which grouped it with the likes of heroin, LSD, and other highly dangerous controlled substances.
At this point, it was clear that the law no longer viewed marijuana as a plant that had any redeeming qualities, let alone medicinal properties.
It has taken nearly 100 years, but finally, marijuana’s taboo identity in American culture is being turned on its head. The prohibition era is all but dead, as 25 states have medical marijuana (MMJ) programs in place. And the DEA is rumored to be considering a rescheduling of the plant so it can be legally prescribed in all 50 states.
A growing number of politicians, doctors, and members of the general public support the widespread proliferation of medical marijuana, and once that happens, we’ll surely see some big changes across the medical world.
The Growing Natural Alternative
A significant shift is occurring in medicine toward natural alternatives, and MMJ has taken the top spot in this changing paradigm.
In states where medical cannabis is legal, patients who either can’t or don’t want to tolerate the side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals can use the plant to quell a variety of ailments. In fact, a 2014 study revealed that more than 90 percent of California’s medical marijuana patients say the drug helped treat their conditions.
Though MMJ has barely scratched the surface of its revolutionary potential, society is already seeing these three big benefits:
1. Improved Quality of Life for Patients
Patients can use medical cannabis to replace multiple medications, which vastly improves quality of life in many ways. Virtually every pharmaceutical comes with a list of side effects, and I’ve seen firsthand how doctors can prescribe even more pills to calm these side effects. But, in the end, these new drugs cause their own side effects, and the patient is left taking a cocktail of pills only to still feel bad.
By eliminating the side-effect cycle, medical marijuana provides streamlined, more appropriate relief to patients. Further, it comes with the benefit of versatile dosing options and delivery systems. Countless strains of marijuana exist that each induce different sensations, and users can choose to administer their medicine in a number of ways — by smoking or eating it, or even rubbing it onto their skin as a balm.
2. Decreased Drug Abuse
Pharmaceutical abuse is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. Opioids are among the biggest contributors to this total, with nearly 20,000 deaths attributed to them each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 2 million Americans were addicted to opioids in 2014. Despite this jarring fact, more than 200 million opiate prescriptions are written each year.
Marijuana has proven to be less damaging and addictive than pharmaceutical alternatives and can definitely help alleviate our nation’s drug problem. Every medical marijuana prescription equates to one fewer opiate prescription, which means fewer of these dangerous drugs end up on the black market and in the hands of addicts.
3. Less Profit in Big Pharma’s Pockets
The rise of natural remedies also cuts into the profits of big pharmaceutical corporations, which accumulated more than $1 trillion in sales in 2014 alone. Big Pharma spends more than any other industry buying politicians in Washington. Between 2013 and 2014, it spent nearly $2.9 billion lobbying and $15 million in campaign contributions.
Patients who use medical marijuana no longer have to rely on faceless pharmaceutical corporations. In states where medical marijuana is legal, patients can grow their own medicine (or designate a local caregiver to grow it for them). This keeps money in the pockets of the people who need it instead of lining the wallets of corporate executives who might have shady motives.
Medical marijuana isn’t just a passing fad, nor is it a loophole potheads discovered to legalize getting high. It’s a serious medication that has proved helpful in treating a wide variety of debilitating symptoms.
For the millions upon millions of people who suffer from ailments like depression, insomnia, chronic pain, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, or a loss of appetite caused by chemotherapy: Your medical solution is here. And before we know it, it will be legal in all 50 states.
About the Author: Faisal Ansari is the co-founder of MMJRecs, a telemedicine platform in the medical marijuana industry. As a former cancer patient who has reaped the medicinal benefits of marijuana, Faisal co-founded MMJRecs to help others connect to doctors with convenience and ease. He’s a University of Miami graduate with a degree in finance. Faisal owns College Hunks Hauling Junk franchises in Orlando and Tampa, Florida. He is trilingual and speaks English, Portuguese, and Spanish.