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Medical Marijuana, Term Paper Example

Pages: 12

Words: 3267

Term Paper

Project Outline

Medical Marijuana represents a challenging public health issue that is controversial in nature and has contributed to many changes in health policies throughout the United States. An increasing number of patients depend on marijuana provided by licensed medical dispensaries for pain management and to treat a variety of conditions. Therefore, its popularity has expanded in many areas and continues to grow as perceptions change regarding the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.  It is important to address some of the challenges associated with medical marijuana and to also consider some of the common issues that impact decision-making in this regard, along with the availability of the drug to accommodate medical needs. Physicians who prescribe medical marijuana often face difficult obstacles in their ability to obtain support for this decision, while also experiencing pushback because of its non-traditional classification and characteristics. This reflects the importance of understanding how to address the use of medical marijuana and the policies and legal implications that impact these decisions.

Medical marijuana regulations continue to evolve across the fifty states and has introduced much controversy both in favor and against its regulation; as a result, there are many lessons that must still be learned regarding the use of medical marijuana and how it impacts future decision-making across states (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). From this perspective, it is necessary to evaluate existing governing laws regarding medical marijuana use and whether or not these existing policies have been effective in establishing a precedent for other states to follow (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). In addition, the legal context of each law varies from state to state, and this complicates decision-making regarding the use of this drug for medical reasons (Pacula, Hunt, & Boustead, 2014). It is also important to recognize how the legalization of marijuana has impacted substance abuse and other concerns, as these issues influence decision-making for other states where no laws exist regarding its use (Cerda, Wall, Keyes, Galea, & Hasin, 2012). Marijuana legalization provides a positive approach to improving the health and wellbeing of many people; however, it must be well-regulated and monitored in order to optimize the benefits for its users and to promote a safe environment for consumption.

Body

Medical marijuana is a complex issue with many characteristics that require further consideration and focus to ensure that there are sufficient opportunities to achieve the desired outcomes that will promote optimal safety for its users. This process is instrumental in order to ensure that any regulations are properly addressed to manage the drug’s use effectively. There is much confusion regarding medical marijuana legalization because its prevalence in some states has been confounded by existing practices and evidence against this process that impact its effectiveness (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). It is known that “Unlike other marijuana policy changes, medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and the two recent legalization policies have received considerable media attention at the local and national level, in part because many occurred through voter referendum” (p. 212). Therefore, it is important to note that voter involvement and support of these referendums is a critical factor in determining how these regulations might be experienced in other states where they do not currently exist (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). This set of practices requires a community and/or state perspectives regarding the impact of current criminalization policies and how these might impact medical use of the drug (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). It is important for states and communities to be mindful of their existing regulations regarding marijuana use and possession and to factor these issues into any decisions regarding medical marijuana use within a given area, as these two policies must be congruent and require further analysis and consideration from a policymaking perspective.

Patients who use medical marijuana should receive support for its use when prescribed by a physician because it is in the best interests to support their overall health and wellbeing. There are significant legal and regulatory factors associated with marijuana use and require an understanding of the benefits of medical marijuana and how it impacts overall utilization rates (Cerda, Wall, Keyes, Galea, & Hasin, 2012). It is known that “Medical marijuana laws can be used to represent state-level norms on marijuana use because generally, a substantial relationship exists between public opinion and policy decisions and specifically, because community norms regarding substance use (e.g., drinking and cigarette smoking) are directly related to policy and enforcement efforts” (Cerda et.al, 2012). This perspective is critical because it supports a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the decision-making method by which medical marijuana regulations are established and the overall approach to regulating medical marijuana for those who are candidates for the drug in this capacity (Cerda et.al, 2012).

In order to effectively address medical marijuana regulations, it is important to identify the suppliers and demanders of this drug from a medicinal perspective and to determine these factors in supporting legislation in states where existing rules do not currently exist. The demanders of medical marijuana include physicians who prescribe the drug to their patients for pain management and other medical reasons, as well as the patients themselves, who are candidates for this type of treatment to address their health issues. The demand for medical marijuana appears to be on the rise due to an increased interest from physicians, along with the American Medical Association, which has recognized the potential value of medical marijuana for patients in the following manner: “he American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution in 2009 urging the federal government to review the case for rescheduling marijuana, noting that doing so would facilitate research and development of cannabinoid-based medicine and avoid the patchwork of inadequate state laws that do not focus on establishing clinical guidelines or standards for medically prescribing marijuana” (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). This support has largely expanded interest in medical marijuana and in supporting increased prescribing rates and utilization of the drug for a variety of medical purposes; therefore, regulatory bodies and policy makers have taken notice of the increased interest and demand for licensed and controlled medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the United States, even in areas where no current regulations exist (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014).

From a supplier perspective, there has been an increased in medical marijuana dispensaries in states where the drug is permitted to be prescribed for medical purposes, and this reflects a greater need to understand the nature of the supply, its relative safety for patients, and its accessibility for those in need. This process is instrumental in determining how to best approach laws and regulations regarding medical marijuana and what is required to ensure that patient safety is a critical priority and accessibility to the drug is effective in communities where it is or is likely to be available. However, one consideration to make regarding the availability of medical marijuana is the following: “states allowing home cultivation and legal dispensaries are both positively associated with recreational use and in particular, heavy use” (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). Therefore, it is understandable that some states are proceeding towards medical marijuana with caution because there is a strong belief and support regarding increased recreational use that may impact states and communities as a whole (Pacula & Sevigny, 2014). For states with existing laws regarding medical marijuana, it is important to identify some of the risk factors associated with suppliers in order to be effective in distributing the drug under controlled conditions and for the stated purposes as prescribed by physicians, as this support a greater understanding of the availability of the drug for those who require it and how this impacts their overall health and wellbeing.

Medical marijuana facilitates strong positions on both sides of the argument; therefore, this requires an examination of the key variables which impact decision-making and regulations for the drug’s approval and utilization. Organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) serves as an interest group in the discussion of expanding marijuana legislation for medicinal purposes (2015). This organization supports the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, as well as for medical reasons; therefore, it possesses a very strong interest in the decision-making process regarding marijuana legalization in states where these regulations do not currently exist (NORML, 2015). The organization emphasizes such critical areas as legalization, education, taxation, and criminal reform to ensure that marijuana users are properly respected, taxed, and are not subject to criminalization or fines for marijuana use under different conditions (NORML, 2015). This organization and other interest groups provide critical support and knowledge regarding marijuana use and the overall development of new programs to enhance legal reform regarding this activity. These groups, some of whom have close political ties, have a strong influence on regulatory and policy makers because they support the continued development of marijuana use for a variety of purposes, including but not limited to use for medical reasons as prescribed by physicians. It is important to recognize the influence of these groups and to be mindful of their impact on current and future regulatory decision-making in this regard.

It is believed that interest groups will continue to expand their influence and support of medical marijuana because they believe that it has a true impact on health under some conditions, such as pain management, for diseases such as cancer and other conditions. This reflects the importance of interest groups in paying the way for future regulations regarding medical marijuana and the overall development of new perspectives to accommodate the increased use of marijuana for medical reasons throughout the United States. It is imperative that policy makers should examine these arguments as proposed by interest groups in greater detail and aim to understand what steps are required to facilitate an effective response to change and progress in this regard. From this perspective, organizations must continue to develop and thrive with the resources that they have and to be mindful of the challenges of understanding patient care needs and obtain the support that is required to facilitate a successful approach to medical marijuana use in areas where this is not currently legally available.

One potential area of concern from legal and policy making experts is the lack of long-term addiction research for patients who are prescribed medical marijuana in states where this process is legal; furthermore, there are many complex conditions related to drug consumption that impact regulatory processes; therefore, behavioral, social, and legal considerations must occur when discussing any policies regarding medical marijuana use (Cohen, 2015). This process requires legal experts and policy makers to collaborate and discuss the benefits of medical marijuana and to determine if these advantages outweigh the risks with long-term use of the drug under specific conditions (Cohen, 2015). It is necessary to address these issues and to be mindful of the opportunities that are presented to patients when physicians prescribe medical marijuana and what steps are required from a research perspective to ensure that long-term use is not excessively harmful for these patients (Cohen, 2015). Lawmakers must be able to distinguish between the different perspectives that impact legislation regarding medical marijuana and the overall development of policies to govern this process over time. It is expected that existing regulations may serve as a guide in order to be successful in managing the need for medical marijuana in states where current laws do not exist.

From a public policy perspective, it is important to identify the reasons behind the development of factors that impact decision-making towards the legalization of medical marijuana. From a public health perspective, there are significant factors associated with governing policy that impact medical marijuana legalization in states where this does not currently exist; therefore, this must be addressed in the context of risk factors that may occur for patients using the drug on a regular basis, such as the following: “here are certain acute effects and consequences of chronic use for which the evidence of adverse effects is fairly strong, including panic attacks and increased anxiety, impaired judgment and reaction time, increased probability of experiencing psychotic symptoms, and risk of dependence” (Pacula, Kilmer, Wagenaar, Chaloupka, & Caulkins, 2014, p. 1022). It is imperative to address the public health implications of medical marijuana and what is required to protect the general public from any risks associated with use of the drug, along with other factors that impact physician decision-making. There are other public policy and public health issues to consider, such as where the drug is consumed and if this poses a threat to the general public as a result of secondhand smoke (Pacula et.al, 2014). These perspectives must be evaluated when addressing public policies and regulations regarding medical marijuana and how the drug is perceived by different groups, both for and against its use for medical reasons.

A number of conflicting opinions regarding the use of medical marijuana are common, given the level of controversy regarding the use of the drug for medical and for recreational purposes; therefore, it is important to identify the key variables that influence policy maker’s decision-making in this regard.  Policies and regulations regarding the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes must convey the importance of addressing all sides of the argument and in supporting an active discussion that supports marijuana regulations that will positively impact communities and those who might be helped by the drug. It is important to consider the value of marijuana for medicinal purposes for patients with cancer and other chronic diseases as a form of pain management; however, these arguments are complicated by the belief that the drug may not be appropriate for use for these reasons and perhaps under any circumstances. It is important for policy makers to balance the directives and wishes of interest groups, suppliers, and demanders of marijuana and to make sense of the regulations that exist in order to be successful in providing a compromise to support the need and demand for the drug in the medical community.

Regulatory bodies must be prepared to manage the demand for medical marijuana in states where current regulations do not exist, and this must be supported by a comprehensive framework that will have a lasting impact on health outcomes for those who are candidates for the drug for medicinal purposes. This process is instrumental in enabling local communities to be mindful of the advantages and disadvantages of medical marijuana and to recognize how it might impact long-term health and wellbeing for some individuals. It is imperative to consider the value of the drug in improving quality of life for those who require the drug under physicians’ orders when determining if regulations are required and how they will govern the sale and distribution of the drug under controlled conditions. This process also demonstrates the need for suppliers to be mindful of their responsibility to sell the drug under the regulations that govern their geographic area. This is a critical factor in order to ensure that they are prepared to support a long-term relationship with governing bodies where all required regulations take precedence. This will establish a positive tone in states where medical marijuana is permitted and how it is managed through the physician-patient-supplier relationship.

Recognizing the demand for medical marijuana in some states has created a number of controversial views regarding the drug and an increased level of tolerance for its open use in some communities, given that it provides proven medical value for many patients. However, the school of thought regarding medical marijuana remains largely divided in some areas, particularly when substance abuse is such a critical issue in many societies and continues to cause many problems, including overdoses and deaths, regardless of socioeconomic status. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge these risks and to be mindful of the issues that will prevail if the decision is made to move forward with marijuana legalization for medicinal purposes that impact a given population group who require the drug for health reasons.

From a public health perspective, there is much consideration of the likelihood of addiction for some marijuana users, even those who use the drug for medicinal purposes; therefore, it is important to address these issues and to recognize the public health risks of dispensing marijuana for these reasons (Cerda et.al, 2012). From this perspective, it is likely that there will be additional considerations to evaluate regarding its clinical safety and efficacy and the number of patients who may be prescribed the drug under these conditions prior to making any final decisions regarding its legalization in states where the drug is not currently available for this purpose (Cerda et.al, 2012). There must be a greater understanding of the far-reaching advantages and disadvantages of the drug so that regulations may be determined with support and evidence from other states, accompanied by current perspectives and regulations regarding the use of the drug as prescribed by physicians (Cerda et.al, 2012). Furthermore, criminalization proceedings for the use of marijuana in a given state must also be considered, with the potential to modify these regulations if it is determined that the drug may be used for medical reasons and has the proper level of support from the state and key interest groups.

The process of acknowledging the ever-increasing demand for medical marijuana continues to grow throughout the United States, with significant evidence supporting this process and its legalization under controlled conditions. In addition, with some states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the arguments against the medical use of the drug appear to be diminishing, thereby creating an environment where there must be a greater balance between supporters of the drug, including interest groups, with those who oppose the drug, such as organizations who fight drug abuse. Therefore, this process continues to be explored, and public policies must support regulations that are in the best interests of state residents and community members who may use the drug for medical reasons.

Conclusion

Medical marijuana is a controversial issue in many states where there is a lack of understanding of its benefits versus its drawbacks; therefore, it must be addressed in the context of its safety in community-based settings under physician guidance. For states where the drug is not currently legalized for medical purposes, it is important to identify the limitations of legalizing the drug for these reasons in opposition to the development of regulations to support its use under specific conditions. This process is instrumental in enabling policy makers to be supportive of the drug by viewing available evidence that supports its use in this regard, while also recognizing that opposing views may also limit its viability and practicality in some communities and states, perhaps those with more conservative approaches to medicinal therapies. As a result, regulatory bodies must weigh the pros versus the cons regarding the use of the drug and aim to strike a balance that will achieve the intended results, along with an understanding of how it must be regulated at the state level, including its supply and the demand for the drug in different areas.

References

Cerdá, M., Wall, M., Keyes, K. M., Galea, S., & Hasin, D. (2012). Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse and dependence. Drug and alcohol dependence, 120(1), 22-27.

Cohen, P. J. (2015). Medical marijuana: the conflict between scientific evidence and political ideology. Part one of two. Journal of pain & palliative care pharmacotherapy.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (2015). Retrieved from http://norml.org/

Pacula, R. L., Kilmer, B., Wagenaar, A. C., Chaloupka, F. J., & Caulkins, J. P. (2014). Developing public health regulations for marijuana: lessons from alcohol and tobacco. American journal of public health, 104(6), 1021-1028.

Pacula, R. L., & Sevigny, E. L. (2014). Marijuana liberalization policies: Why we can’t learn much from policy still in motion. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(1), 212-221.

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