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Monday, June 16, 2014

    Even though many states have legalized marijuana for mostly medical and recreational purposes, the rate of use among teens has pretty much remained unchanged from the year 2011-2013. This indicates, to me, that the legalization of marijuana does not pose any threat in regard to increasing rates of use among teens. Not that increasing marijuana use rates poses a threats, within my opinion, however, it is something to take into consideration.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

      The use of marijuana continues to be prevalent in today’s society, and with the increasing number of states legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical purposes, the topic is important in regard to the therapeutic benefits and the risks. While marijuana use and the topic of medical marijuana continue to be a controversial topic among the American people, one thing shows to be consistent: the medical, personal, and therapeutic benefits evidently outway the risks.
       Marijuana, up until the twentieth century, was not known as ‘marijuana’. This new term, among some other aspects of the plant, were not known to many people during this time. Cannabis sativa, the name it was more commonly referred to in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was listed in early pharmacopoeia as treatment for conditions such as neuralgia (intense nerve pain), tetanus, typhus, rabies, alchoholism, opiate addiction, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsilitis, insanity, among others. This new term ‘marijuana’ originated from Mexican slang (Wooh, 2012).
       For most of America’s early history, using and growing the cannabis sativa plant was federally legal as well as legal under state law. This all changed around 1910 when accounts of marijuana use were being allegedly connected to violent crimes and harmful effects on its users. This sparked the beginning of the prohibitionist movement against the marijuana plant, and by the end of 1936, all 48 states had criminalized possession of the plant (Wooh, 2012).
       The federal government stepped in and began regulating marijuana in 1937 with the enactment of the Marihuana Tax Act. Even though the American Medical Association (AMA) strongly opposed this measure, all medicinal marijuana products were removed from the pharmaceutical market. Dr. William C. Woodward, who was legislative counsel for the AMA at the time, had this to say about the matter, “Since the medicinal use of cannabis has not caused and is not causing addiction, the prevention of the use of the drug for medicinal purposes can accomplish no good whatsoever. How far it may serve to deprive the public of the benefits of a drug that on further research may prove to be of substantial value, it is impossible to foresee” (Wooh, 2012).
       Even though this act did not prohibit marijuana altogether, it did impose a tax on it, as well as making mandatory registration and reporting requirements on the growers, sellers, and buyers. The act did allow for some of marijuana’s medical purposes to be continued, however, many doctors then decided it was too much of a hassle to prescribe marijuana due to the extra paperwork that was now required by the law (Wooh, 2012).
       In the 1950s, congress established minimum prison sentences for drug crimes. They also added marijuana into their Narcotics Control Act of 1956, which resulted in stricter mandatory sentences for marijuana-related crimes and offenses. Then, with the increasing marijuana use and other drug use during the 1960s, president Richard Nixon asked congress to bring forth federal legislation that would address the many growing concerns over increasing issues of drug use. Responding to Nixon, congress enacted the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which acted to join together the nation’s previous drug laws and to strengthen the country’s regulation of illicit drugs. From this act came the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which is the act that sets the criteria for the placement of controlled substances into the five schedules that we are familiar with today. Placement into these schedules depend on the substance’s accepted medical use(s), potential for abuse, and the known psychological and/or physical effects on the body (Wooh, 2012).
       The CSA places marijuana into the first schedule, schedule 1, joining the drugs lysergic acid (LSD), heroin, mescaline, among others. This schedule states that the included substances have a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use(s) in treatment, as well as a lack of safety standards that are able to be applied to the substances/drugs. Strangely though, however, other drugs like cocaine, amphetamine, and opium were assigned to higher schedules, which were less restricted. These drugs/substances had recognized medical use, yet marijuana remained in schedule 1, the most restrictive of the five. “[D]espite its placement in Schedule I, marijuana use increased, as did the number of health-care professionals and their patients who believed in the plant’s therapeutic value” (Wooh, 2012).
       The CSA does not, even currently, make any differentiation between medical marijuana use and the recreational use of marijuana. Even though there are 20 states that have legalized medical marijuana and two states that have legalized recreational marijuana completely, it is still federally illegal and the possession of marijuana for one’s personal use is a misdemeanor, which can bring one year in a federal prison as well as up to a $100,000 fine, even for a first offence. Growing marijuana is a felony, and according to the CSA, it is the manufacturing of a controlled substance. The growing of a single plant can land an individual in federal prison for up to five years as well as a fine of up to $250,000 (Wooh, 2012).
       Even though marijuana has remained a schedule 1 controlled substance since the 1940s, public opinion continues to show increasing favor toward the plant’s medical and therapeutic potential. Three years ago, in October of 2010, a Gallup poll found that almost 50% (44%) of adults favored the legalization of marijuana, rising nearly 1-2% since the year 2000. In January of that same year, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 81% of Americans would not mind if their physician chose to prescribe marijuana to other patients. Another poll that had been done in six western states showed that most of the poll respondents favored the total legalization of the plant, such as the way Washington and Colorado have done so (Munsey, 2010).
      Recent American polls continue to show the increasing favor of marijuana legalization, and recent action by the federal government show continuing opposition and defense. Even though many states such as California, Colorado, Washington, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Montana, and New Hampshire, among others, have legalized marijuana either medicinally or recreationally by the vote of the people, the federal government continues to fight against it. They do so by raiding the grow operations and dispensaries, even though they follow state laws, giving them fines and other repercussions, and by continuing to persecute those who are involved. Even though the people of these states have voted marijuana to be legal and those involved follow the laws in place regarding the matter, the federal government seems as though they do not want to give in so easily.
       There are a few problems that marijuana use illuminates. The first one is the risk for dependence and the ability this factor has to affect a person’s life. Barbara Mason, PhD, who is the co-director of the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, has warned that 10% of marijuana users move on to develop marijuana dependence. Because this 10% may develop a marijuana dependence that goes farther than just using it in non-problematic ways, effective treatments need to be available, and this aspect proves to be problematic. In order to find these treatments, there are studies that need to be done. It is hard for these studies to be done when the federal government continues to prosecute people for it; it puts many people at a risk they are not willing to take (Munsey, 2010).
       While this risk for dependence could affect people in different ways and in regard to different aspects of their lives, it is rather close to the dependence percent of alcohol. With 9.7% of marijuana users meeting some criteria for dependence and 4.9% of alcohol users meeting criteria for dependence, these numbers seem low compared to the 35.3% that met criteria to be considered dependent on nicotine, a legal substance available nearly everywhere we go (Munsey, 2010).
       These studies and polls indicate that the symptoms or signs of dependence would not change or worsen if it became legal. However, the more available marijuana were to become, the more likely people would try it, making the dependence numbers likely to increase. The total number of people dependent on marijuana, regardless of what that dependence means from individual to individual, is likely to increase with increasing availability (Munsey, 2010).
       Because the number of marijuana users has at the very least remained constant, and because people continue to support it, the health benefits and possibility for good health potential that have began to be discovered and utilized are important to note. However, because the research available is limited due to it’s illegal status, only a limited amount of information is known about how marijuana truly affects the brain. Many studies that aimed to uncover more information about the effects on the brain and cognitive and neuropsychological behavior have shown to be controversial (Chang, Cloak, Ernst, & Yakupov, 2006).
       Some studies showed that chronic marijuana use had little effect on cognitive function except for possibility of decreasing ability to learn and remember new information, while other studies have found attention deficits in memory and attention resulting in chronic users within the first 7 days of abstinence. However, studies have also proved that with furthered abstinence (28 days or so), there was a reported normalization of cognitive functions, even though some claimed to observe continuing and persistent deficits (Chang et al., 2006).
       The few MRI studies available on marijuana have contradictory results. While one study found no evidence of cerebral atrophy, or decreasing brain cell size, which included the hippocampus, another study showed some reports of decreased grey matter and increased white matter density. The brain’s grey matter controls the body senses and controls the muscles while the brain’s white matter controls and regulates the functions that the body is unaware of, such as temperature, blood pressure and the heart rate; the dispensing of hormones and the control of food, as well as the intake of water and the exposition of emotions (Chang et al., 2006).
       These studies show that marijuana users were evaluated with different neuropsychological tests that were aimed to sense and detect the resulting deficits related to injury in the frontal lobe and basal ganglia. These are the two most important areas of the brain that are associated with substance use, as well as the cerebellum, a part of the brain which is responsible for controlling our coordination, balance, voluntary motor movements, and our body’s sense of position. Attention, concentration, working memory and the speed of information processing were also assessed. For example, some subjects answered sets of non-verbal visual-attention tasks with variable levels of difficulty, others were asked to do tasks while their brain activity was measured, and some studies looked at how users and non-users differentiated in visually tracking objects, such as balls (Chang et al., 2006).
       Conclusively, there were no significant differences that were demonstrated between marijuana users and abstinent users in the area of reaction times and the other cognitive functions in comparison with the control group. Compared with control subjects who did not use marijuana, the active marijuana users showed less brain activation in important parts of their attention network, and abstinent marijuana users showed less activation (attention effect) in the larger brain regions, having greater activation in a few smaller areas that spans the brain’s different regions (Chang et al., 2006). Overall, even though the long-term effects are not fully understood, the short-term effects prove to exist. However so, they may prove to be less damaging than once believed.
       Because of these studies and many other controversial studies that are available on marijuana, there is a general confusion and lack of agreement overall in America. Overall, the studies available on marijuana provide both positive and negative information about the differences in brain activation levels, location effect, and it’s potential for personal and medical uses. This does not help the persisting disagreement. Even though there are controversial studies that cloud the air of marijuana judgement, there are several important studies and circumstances where marijuana proves to be beneficial.
       Epilepsy is just one example of a disease where marijuana has been studied and proven to help those who are affected. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions and is characterized by recurrent and uncontrollable seizures. Both previous evidence and research have suggested that the endogenous cannabinoid system, the system that THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabinol), and marijuana’s other chemicals react with, may play a major role in anticonvulsant activity in the brain (Blair, DeLorenzo, Falenski, Martin, & Wallace, 2003).
       The CB 1 receptor is the most highly expressed G-protein-coupled receptor in the brain and it is really important in regard to the regulation of neuronal excitability, especially in the case of those with epilepsy. By using a cannabinoid CB 1 receptor-focused test, a study revealed that the application of the CB 1 receptor in the brain lowered the electroshock seizure threshold, decreasing epileptic seizures. This study was done of rats over in a long-term model of epilepsy, and the administration of the CB 1 receptor agonists resulted in the control animals never manifesting any electroencephalogram (EEG) seizures, a test that measures and records the electrical activity in the brain, or behavioral seizures, characterized by the jerking arms, body, and movements. The cannabinoids did not produce any kind of total sedation, however, they did completely remove the occurrence of the seizures. Also, in an opposite like fashion, studies have concluded that the antagonism (blocking or stopping) of the CB 1 receptor significantly increased epileptic seizure frequency and duration (Blair et al., 2003). With so much promising evidence in the treatment of epilepsy, marijuana and it’s active chemicals need to be studied further so their medical uses can be better understood and utilized.
       Conclusively, this is just one area that is very important in determining marijuana’s dangers in comparison to it’s benefits. Because so many people suffer from epilepsy and the debilitating symptoms that affect their everyday life, this information should be taken into consideration and used in the furthered studying of the marijuana plant.
       Along with the anticonvulsant effects that marijuana has been proven to show, it has also been shown to decrease neuropathic pain, help people with chronic discomfort, and give relief to those suffering from diabetes and those who take anti-HIV medications, whom suffer from a lot of nausea, vomiting, and other like symptoms. Cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy have also been shown to greatly benefit from marijuana inhalation and the consuming of cannabinoid eatables (Munsey, 2010).
       Clinical trials that were funded by the University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research revealed that marijuana significantly decreases neuropathic pain and chronic discomfort that is difficult to treat, resulting from either severe injuries, from the side effects of the anti-HIV drugs, or from diabetes. Another study done by this center for cannabis research revealed that marijuana doses effectively were able to reduce neuropathic pain that could result from a number of causes. Conclusively, these studies showed that marijuana was able to reduce patient pain by more than 30 percent, which is a very important finding when it comes to pain research. For people who deal with the kind of chronic pain that interrupts their life, this 30 percent reduction in pain is associated with meaningful improvement in their quality of life (Munsey, 2010). Because people who suffer from chronic pain have trouble finding relief and because their pain does not typically respond to traditional pain medications and treatments, this is an important breakthrough that should be looked at closer.
       Dronabinol, a synthetic pharmaceutical cannabinoid, is made to do the same things that marijuana does without a person having to smoke marijuana. However, it has a few side effects that marijuana does not have, such as increased anxiety, and dosage problems. This synthetic cannabinoid has to be taken at a dose that is eight times stronger than the recommended dosage to achieve the same effects as smoked marijuana (Munsey, 2010). When marijuana does not have any long-term negative studies that prove harmful long-term effects, why are they making something synthetically that we could just use naturally, from the environment? If they are taking marijuana and trying to synthetically create it’s compounds for medical use, does that not contradict their claims that place marijuana in the schedule 1 substance list, stating that is has no medicinal value and a high risk for dependence? Where is their proof for these claims of risks of dependence? How do they defend that, when tobacco has a much higher dependence rate and has been proven to kill people? It really does not add up.
       As a conclusion, the benefits of marijuana and the possibility for benefits to the people greatly outweigh any kind of risks on health, for dependence, or for expanding drug use. To date, there are no studies that show that marijuana is more harmful than some of the products that are available in abundance in today’s world, such as alcohol, tobacco, and even some of the chemically processed foods that pollute our grocery store shelves. It is a shame that a medicinal plant continues to be fought against, and people continue to be restricted from something that is proven to help them. If our own government can put a patent on synthetic cannabinoids that aim to have the same effects as smoked and ingested marijuana, then exactly how can they claim that is has no medical value? Are they afraid that because marijuana can be grown easily by so many and virtually anywhere, that their pharmaceutical companies will lose profits, or control over their consumers? I believe there is more to this corruption than meets the eye, and with the momentum of the medical marijuana movement underway, it is only a matter of time before people began demanding the rights they deserve.

References


Blair, R., DeLorenzo, R., Falenski, K., Martin, B., & Wallace, M. (2003). The endogenous cannabinoid system regulates seizure frequency and duration in a model of temporal lobe epilepsy. The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics ,307(1), 129-137. Retrieved from http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/307/1/129.full

Chang, L., Cloak, C., Ernst, T., & Yakopov, R. (2006). Marijuana use is associated with a reorganized visual-attention network and cerebellar hypoactivation. Brain: A Journal of Neurology ,129(5), 1096-1112. Retrieved from http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/129/5/1096.full?sid=8c6b2758-b4c9-41d1-b66d-7575d99d793d

Munsey, C. (2010). Psychologists’ research can inform the growing debate over legalizing marijuana. American Psychological Association , 41 (6), Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/06/marijuana.aspx

Ponto, L. (2006). Challenges of marijuana research. Brain: A Journal of Neurology , 129 (5), 1081-1083. Retrieved from http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/129/5/1081.full

Wooh, J. (2012). Decriminalization of cannabis: A legal or political problem?. Thomas M. Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law, 15(3), Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2286421

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Thursday, October 10, 2013
Obamacare Is A Scam



     Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection Act and The Affordable Care Act, has caused much disagreement and fuss within the government and confusion among the people. While many are unaware of exactly what Obamacare is, one thing is certain; there is a lack of a clear definition, and our government and medias are not doing an adequate enough job at truthfully explaining it to the people.
     Obamacare basically mandates that all people will have to buy health insurance, unless they already use medicaid or medicare, by 2014, or pay a tax penalty. According to a chart by the census bureau (1), the number of millennials, or those who reached young adulthood around the year 2000, makes up a little more than 30% of the population. For this young population, Obamacare aims to attract those from ages 19-29. Because young adults can now stay on their parents insurance until age 26, many will now pay artificially higher premiums than the older generations, to make up for their lack of spending. It is virtually a tax on the young. For those ages 55-59, premiums are estimated to decrease but for the younger and healthier generation, ages 18-24, premiums are estimated to climb. (1)
     The second failure of Obamacare is it will cause a loss of coverage for the young, forcing them to spend tons of money on an insurance plan and high premiums unless they stay on existing plans (many can no longer be used with Obamacare) or their parents plan, but their parents will stay pay higher premiums. For example, some colleges who offer coverage to students are being forced higher minimum spending by the federal government, which makes student premiums too high, and students will not be able to afford it. This is going to likely lead to a decrease in college student coverage. While Obamacare protects private insurance, which is usually expensive, it does not protect the people who have gotten their insurance taken away because it was not approved by Obamacare, and these are the people who will now be forced to buy insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty tax. (2)
     It is feared that with Obamacare’s focused expansion of medicaid, adding a new 20 million Americans to the program, it will be difficult to sustain when the states’ budgets are already running tight. States will then be forced to direct funds into medicaid, and much less funding will be available for other state priorities, such as improving schools and education, communities, or working to expand the state economy and create more jobs. (2)
     According to The Wall Street Journal, the Health and Humans Services Department confirmed that they would not be verifying individual eligibility for the tens of billions in subsidies the government will hand out. So then, who will decide this? The HHS said they will let people “self attest” to their own eligibility for subsidies and Obamacare exchanges will take the applicants’ word on their projected household income. This leaves so much room for fraud and overspending.
     Obamacare is a scam. Instead of doling out subsidies where they are not needed and forcing young and healthy people to pay higher premiums for unneeded coverage, why not focus the money they tax from American’s incomes and use it to actually invest in infrastructure and the economy? For an erroneous example, our foreign policy fallaciously allows corporations to be moved overseas, which has caused millions of hardworking Americans to lose their jobs. Our government needs to start fixing the real problems in the country, and forcing everyone to buy health coverage is not freedom. “As the national debt approaches $16 trillion and the cost of Obamacare continues to rise, younger Americans will be saddled with crushing taxes to pay for it.” (2)
     This is the EXACT kind of tyranny the anti-federalists warned us of, with the exact kind of elitist and corporatist motives that Karl Marx predicted. Where is democracy? Did we get to vote about this, or do we have any kind of choice? I bet Big Pharma is excited. The representative democracy no longer works, and a more direct democracy is desperately needed to successfully enact the change we need in this country.

1. http://www.policymic.com/articles/66227/how-does-obamacare-work-millennials-foot-the-bill-for-a-broken-system

2. http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/17/five-devastating-effects-obamacare-will-have-on-young-adults/

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