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Opinion: Medical Marijuana Benefits

Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D. is an associate professor of psychology at SUNY Albany who believes marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes.

Therapeutic use of marijuana has a history spanning over 4,500 years.
The most humane and just approach to helping the sick requires that we continue the availability of medical marijuana. Evidence supporting medical marijuana for appetite loss, glaucoma, nausea, vomiting, spasticity, pain, and weight loss is quite impressive. Evidence for its use for arthritis, dystonia, insomnia, seizures, and Tourette's syndrome is also very promising.

Opponents of medical marijuana mention that other drugs are available for each of these disorders. Nevertheless, people differ. We have multiple treatments for almost every human problem. Some patients do not respond well to other medications and need medical marijuana to alleviate their symptoms. Many pharmaceutical drugs create aversive side effects that these patients cannot endure. In addition, medical marijuana is often markedly cheaper than these other medications.

Opponents of medical marijuana often point to dronabinol, the synthetic version of one of marijuana's active ingredients that is available in pill form. The use of only one active ingredient makes dronabinol less effective than medical marijuana. Many ailments respond better to a combination of marijuana's active ingredients rather than just one. In addition, because dronabinol is a pill, it is difficult for people with nausea and vomiting to swallow. Finally, like any medication that's swallowed, dronabinol takes a long time to digest and have its effects. Inhaled marijuana vapors can work markedly faster.

Concern over marijuana's impact on respiratory health is easily remedied. There are no links between marijuana use and lung cancer or emphysema. The associations between smoked marijuana and symptoms like coughing and wheezing can be remedied with the vaporizer. The vaporizer heats the plant so that active ingredients boil off into a fine mist but the plant itself never ignites. The mist contains no tars or noxious gases, making respiratory complications a thing of the past.

To read Dr. Kleber's opinion piece on medical marijuana click here.

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