Controversy in Science

Should We Legalise Cannabis?

As a student within the inner city, not a day goes by when I don’t smell the distinct pungency of weed. It is hardly surprising, though, as Cannabis is the most widely-used drug in the UK. Having grown up in the countryside, I was naive enough to believe that being in possession of an illegal substance was something to keep quiet about. From the past four years amongst students, there is what can be described as a ‘bragging’ right as to who has and who hasn’t smoked or consumed weed. This includes many of my friends, who have gotten very excited over acquiring weed and baking it into brownies; how cute! In my personal opinion, I don’t see the appeal and I’d rather spend my money on Pole Fitness and clothes… but if it’s your thing, then that’s also fine.

There is far more to marijuana than being the substance of a joint after a night out, and that is its therapeutic use. Medical Marijuana is legal in some of the states in the USA, and can be prescribed for;

  • Muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea from cancer chemotherapy
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Inflammatory disorders, such as Crohn’s disease

Marijuana is principally made up of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes psychoactivity associated with hallucinations. Dronabinol is the pharmaceutical formulation of this chemical and comes in capsules containing an oily resin. These are available on prescription from the US, Canada, Germany and New Zealand.

Cannabis is currently illegal in the UK, and classed as a Class B drug amongst ketamine and amphetamines. Although the consequences are milder compared to Class A drugs, possessing cannabis can lead to five years in prison, and up to 14 if you are a supplier. However, its beneficial use in medicine has sparked controversy as to whether or not cannabis should be legalised for prescription for conditions such as the one listed above.

This blog post has been inspired by a recent news story from 12-year old Billy Caldwell. He has been using Cannabis Oil to treat his epilepsy. The oil was confiscated at Heathrow Airport, when they were travelling back from Canada, under the terms that it contained an illegal substance. Billy was later admitted to hospital with a life-threatening illness, and after his mother strongly supported the use of cannabis oil and the benefit it had had on her son, Billy was given a 20-day license to use it. As a result, he was discharged from hospital yesterday, and the government has now formed an expert panel to look at individual cases for when the drug could be prescribed.

Whilst the benefits of cannabis will be looked at, the second part of the review by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will consider the balance of the harm and the good that cannabis can cause. According to the NHS, regular recreational cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia, especially for teenagers and young adults where the brain is still growing. The long term effect is that it can affect our ability to learn and concentrate. A lot of consideration needs to be taken in how cannabis use could be controlled if it was legalised for medical purposes.

Could legalising weed also have an indirect positive effect? People who require weed for their health may benefit from obtaining a reliable source of cannabis, rather than from a source where tobacco or unknown resources are mixed with it. It may also reduce crime associated with dealing and supplying.

For me, seeing the effect that cannabis oil has had on reducing seizures and my own experience of how my friends have used it to benefit their health alone, I have become more open to the concept of legalising weed. I strongly believe though that this should be for medical purposes alone, and a challenge may be involved with ensuring that the people that are prescribed are honest about their requirement. For now, the idea of legalising a drug remains controversial, and I am looking forward to what the outcome is of this case.

Any thoughts on this? Feel free to comment below.




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