Marijuana, also commonly referred to as pot, weed, cannabis, or a variety of other names, has been cultivated as early as 4000B.C. in China, from the hemp plant cannabis sativa (Miller, 2012). There have been reports of it being used for medicinal purposes dating as far back as 1500B.C. (ProCon.org, 2012a). Although cannabis contains a variety of different chemicals, the main, and most understood, ingredient is THC, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The amount of THC in marijuana determines the drug’s strength and can be affected by the growing conditions.
Marijuana is usually smoked by being rolled into “blunts” or “joints” or by being smoked through a pipe or bong. The difference between blunts and joints is that joints are rolled in cigarette paper, while blunts are wrapped in a cigar shell. Smoking is not the only route of administration. Often times marijuana is baked into brownies or other baked goods. Marijuana, in the form of baked goods, has become very widely used, so much in fact, that some high schools banned students from bringing baked goods from home (Villarosa, 2012).
The legality of use of marijuana for recreational as well as medicinal purposes has been a controversial issue for a long time, dating as far back as 1913, and still remains a controversial issue today (Gieringer, 1999). So far, 16 states and Washington DC legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and 18 states are still pending legalization (ProCon.org, 2012b). Some major reasons why legalization of marijuana remains such a controversial issue is because of its previous advertisement as a drug that will cause you to be committed to a mental asylum and also the potential harmful side effects. A review of the FDA Adverse Events from 1997 to 2005, reveals however, that marijuana very rarely causes death directly (ProCon.org, 2009). The majority of deaths from marijuana use result from marijuana being laced with other substances or from use of marijuana with several other drugs. In this paper, I will focus on the potential side effects of marijuana use, and the current use of marijuana in medicine, and then implications for future use of medical marijuana
Physiological Side Effects
Smoking marijuana is the most common route of administration. Much research exists on the side effects of smoking marijuana. A wide spectrum of respiratory health risks has been associated with smoking marijuana such as chronic bronchitis, coughing, phlegm production, and wheezing. Individuals who smoke both tobacco and marijuana seem to have a greater prevalence for the contraction of respiratory problems. Some studies indicate that smoking marijuana involves the inhalation of about three times the amount of tar as compared to tobacco smoking, and one third more retention of the inhaled tar in the respiratory tract (Hashibe, Straif, Tashkin, Morgenstern, Greenland, & Zhang, 2005).
Marijuana smoke contains several carcinogenic substances often found in tobacco smoke,...