Medical Marijuana: A Flanking Strategy from Legalization Proponents

The idea of using marijuana in the treatment of illness, such as AIDS or multiple sclerosis, is not new. Much of the allure of this concept comes from marijuana's historic use as a folk medicine. But in the twenty-first century, medical practice requires that medicines meet a variety of well-established standards to establish that they are safe, effective and pure before they are approved for sick patients. This system includes the requirement that medicines be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and dispensed by pharmacies through prescription from licensed physicians. Smoked marijuana fails to meet these commonly accepted standards for many reasons. IBH supports the study of the therapeutic uses of the specific chemicals in marijuana that are delivered just as are all other medicines, in purified forms, in controlled doses, for specific disorders, and by nontoxic routes of administration. 

  • Smoked marijuana cannot be prescribed in controllable doses because it delivers an inconsistent amount of the active ingredient, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
  • Smoke is not a safe, healthy or reliable way to deliver a medicine. No medicines in use today anywhere in the world are delivered by inhaling the smoke of burning leaves. 
  • Marijuana contains toxic chemicals. Just as with tobacco, smokers inhale over 2,000 different chemicals, many of them known to be harmful.
  • Marijuana depresses the immune system. Recommending the use of something that threatens the immune system to someone who is already gravely ill (AIDS patients, cancer patients, etc.) is utterly contrary to the fundamental role of medical practitioners. It is also contrary to the Hippocratic Oath that medical doctors "do no harm" to their patients.
  • Smoked marijuana is not needed for any of the illnesses commonly cited by proponents. Marijuana does not provide more effective relief than widely available and safer alternatives. 
  • Marijuana is inferior to newer, more refined medicines that have been developed since the medical marijuana issue was advanced decades ago. 

In recent years, the number of ballot initiatives on medical marijuana has increased substantially. As of December 2016, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation permitting medical marijuana. The US should not abandon the rigorous scientifically-based medication approval system of the FDA in lieu of medicines approved by ballot initiatives.