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On the Question of Medical Marijuana

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 17th 2010

On the Question of Medical MarijuanaThere are an increasing number of states approving the legal raising, distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes. Among those states are California and Colorado. There is also an increasing number of newspaper articles and television reports about the multiple problems presented by the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Not the least of these is the fact that growing and using cannabis remains illegal according to federal law. Consequently, a struggle is going on between growers and distributors in those states where marijuana is legal vs. the DEA or Drug Enforcement Agency, an arm of the federal government.

There is no question about the usefulness of marijuana in the treatment of certain illnesses. For example, is known that marijuana can relieve glaucoma, reduce the feelings of nausea associated with chemotherapy for cancer, and relieve pain.there is evidence that the symptoms of many other diseases can be traded with marijuana.

Nevertheless, there are serious problems connected with medical marijuana. For one, marijuana is made up of some 500 compounds. it is a matter of medical debate as to which of these compounds have medical benefits versus which of them could be harmful. In addition, there is a question as to the best way to administer medical marijuana. It is generally agreed among medical experts that smoking is not the best way to ingest the necessary compounds in order to relieve symptoms.

There is a much larger problem associated with the whole issue of medical marijuana. In my opinion, is that issue is rising to the surface in places like California and Colorado. The fact is that much of the marijuana industry remains in the hands of criminal elements. There are increasing numbers of reports of violent crimes being committed by people who are raiding the homes and backyards of legitimate growers who are approved to raise and sell this crop. Also, some of the raisers legally sell weed to legal distributors on the one hand, and, to criminals on the other, in order to maximize profits.Cable Network News ran an investigative story on this very issue in California.

Another problem connected with this complicated issue, is the question of whether or not. Prescriptions are being made available to those people who have no legitimate need for the substance. This is perhaps the greatest dilemma presented by the passage of laws permitting for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. If these laws are nothing but a loophole permitting people to use the substance for recreational purposes, then the law was are without value. We already are struggling with the problem of prescription drugs, especially pain killers, being abused by young people.

The opinion I am about to advance a strictly my own. I understand that many people may strongly disagree. I welcome every body to join this debate.

In my opinion, it is time to decriminalize and regulate the marijuana industry. The fact is, that marijuana is already being widely distributed, all across the nation and for recreational purposes. Decent people, working people, professionals, and many others are using cannabis but feeling like they are breaking the law, which in fact, they are.

Of course, there is great concern among many people that marijuana will be used by children and adolescents. This is a very real concern, because research clearly demonstrates that cannabis has a negative impact on the growing developing brain and brain cells of children and teenagers. It seems to me, that it could be easier to prevent this substance from falling into young hands. By regulating it. What better way to regulate it than to legalize.

Because marijuana has been illegal for so long is firmly in the hands of a criminal element that distributes other and more dangerous illicit drugs. In fact, this is why he, marijuana has been deemed a gateway drug. In other words, it is not marijuana in its self that is gateway, but the fact that criminals have a vested interest in encouraging users to try other substances. Legalization of marijuana could put a stop to this by placing the plant firmly into legal hands.

Research also shows that marijuana can either cause depression or deep in depression in those who are vulnerable or who are already depressed. There is also evidence that the chronic use of marijuana can hasten the advent of schizophrenia in those who are already vulnerable. While this is very true, it is also true that another legal substance presents a very real dangers. And that substance is alcohol. During Prohibition and the government attempted to end alcohol abuse by making it illegal. All of us know how unsuccessful, that attempt was. If we already free-market economy, and we believe in supply and demand there can be no question that there is a huge demand for recreational marijuana.

It seems to me that it makes sense to legalize marijuana, stop making users feel as though they are criminals and continue to study and use the necessary cannabis compounds to treat illnesses. In that way and important loophole is closed in that people do not have to behave like hypocrites.

Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged on this important issue.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

aa and medical marijuana use - tina - Mar 4th 2012


drug noun
Pharmacology . a chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.
(in federal law)
any substance recognized in the official pharmacopoeia or formulary of the nation.
any substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in humans or other animals.
any article, other than food, intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals.
any substance intended for use as a component of such a drug, but not a device or a part of a device.
a habit-forming medicinal or illicit substance, especially a narcotic.

is cannabis a chemical sustance? personally i dont believe that medical marijuana is a drug. i believe it is a part of nature put here on earth by our higher power for our spiritual journey. i am not an alcholic my drug of choice was cocaine and then it turned to ritalin once i discovered i could get it from my doctor. i have been abusing my perscription medications for 7 years now and i want to stop. so i am trying to put a plan in action for my recovery mentally, physically and spirtually. i thought physical first so i get my medical marijuana card and tell the dispensory that i am planning to be going through a ritalin withdrawl and together we went over the types of medical marijuana to assist in my journey. then i thought mental which again was relieved by the dispensory. and lastly spirtitually so i talked to a friend in aa and went to a meeting i enjoyed the atmostphere. however , i struggle to understand why no one will sponser me to work the 12 steps because of my medical marijuana use. but if i was taking cymbalta for depression thats ok ? thats a drug !!!! so here i am an admitted addict with pain and mental health issues i found one PLANT that i indgest, smoke or apply topiclly to assist in my holistic health plan and i hit a stone wall when it comes to spiritual guidence. its very frustrating to think that they wont help me because they are uneducated in the benifits of medical marijuana. perhaps we should start our own chapter?

Really? - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Mar 1st 2012

What have the problems of cigarettes, alcohol use or AA to do with marijuana?

Dr. schwartz

Really? - Brian - Mar 1st 2012

We are talking about a plant, right?  just checking. over 300 compunds?  dou you know how many (unnatural) chemicals are in cigarettes.  Fix the tobacco problem in AA and then lets worry about marijuana after thats all set. or better yet-take your own inventory.

Medical marijuana and AA - Ste - Sep 20th 2011

I have 23 years sobriety and have been continuously active in AA. I just had major back surgery and they put me on norco and vicodan. This took me back mentally and physically to where I was when I was drinking. Very frightening. Total phenomenon of craving. The surgeon was familiar with alcoholism. We worked together and I got off of the opiates in record time with the use of medical cannabis mostly in edible form. This was kind of a no brainer as nothing else that was non narcotic could even come close to controlling the pain. I have no phenomenon of craving with cannabis although I do know people who appear to. As we know from "The Doctors Opinion" in the big book this phenomenon of craving is a crucial factor in the diagnosis of an alcoholic and "never occurs in the average temperate drinker". I think the question we all need to ask is "Does the alcoholic deserve the same medical treatments available to everyone else? So far most of my AA friends say no, while all of my non AA friends (even Alanons) say yes. I sponsor people who have relapsed from opioids and know many more. If they did not have the phenomenon of craving perhaps they would have been fine. 

Because of the stigma we in AA have attached to any mood altering drug I do at times feel guilty. As I have used it as prescribed I will not change my sobriety date. To our AA central office it is an outside issue and we have no opinion on outside issues. For 23 years I have encouraged AAs to follow their doctors orders (preferably with an MD familiar with alcoholism). 
I have to wonder why there is so much resentment at people who are legitimately using any prescribed drugs in AA. Is it alcoholic jealousy or an act of compassion? Tricky question. 

Now that the pain from the surgery is subsiding the pain in my neck is worse. There is so much damage it is inoperable. I have had all of the epidurals, even rf ablation. Still The pain can be horrible (level 7,8,9). I have no disc left  at L2-L3 and 3 crushed thoracic vertebrae. Chronic pain, degenerative disc disease, spinal arthritis, severe stenosis, etc. I have had the problems for 30-40 years. Nothing over the counter touches the pain. 

Do I deserve pain control? Why do I feel guilty?

I would love to find other AAs in similar conditions for support not condemnation.

One last thing, an AA friends' sponsor had chronic back pain and had to do something as would anyone at some point. Everyone has a breaking point.  His doctors put him on fentinol patch, vicodan, norco, and others. He was an unbelievable asset to AA for many years and helped countless alcoholics. Astoundingly he got off of the patches and started medical cannabis. His sponsees bailed. His life of working with alcoholics was at an end. It was what he lived for. Whether because of this or because he could not take the pain or both he blew his head off with a shotgun.

I would say a little more compassion and a lot less judgement may have been in order but who am I to judge?

Please email me back with any thoughts. 


Legalization Issues - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Mar 18th 2010

I believe readers have offered some excellent worries and problems associated marijuana if it is ever legalized. It seems to me that, if legalization occurs, that should not be viewed as an opening of the floodgates for all drugs. The very real life threatening dangers posed from drugs such as crack to all of the others are all too real and too immediate to simply allow them.

common sense prevails - jodie lavery - Mar 18th 2010

I totally agree with you  crimial elements have no scruples when selling this drug, if an eight year old wants it and has the money they'll sell it to them. No questions asked!!!

One thing I do fear is what recently happened with the Australian tobacco growers. The ridiculas taxes our govenment places upon these products led to legal growers being targeted to sell their product on the black market. Not too many years later there was murders and extortion rackets. So Murtleford got shut down. Now imported low quality tobacco without any regulations with the potenial to be extremely dangerous to our health has filled the gap.

Can the govenment keep the taxes down. Maybe for awhile.

Responsible Use - Who Decides? - Kim - Mar 18th 2010

As Cathy pointed out in her comments, there will need to be regulations in place for people driving ( flying airplanes, engineering trains, operating machinery, etc.) who are under the influence of pot, or there are going to be some hefty consequences for both users and those innocent people who happen to be in their way. The toothpaste may indeed be out of the tube on this issue, but I also wonder ( again, along with Cathy) about the future of other drugs that are currently ( with good reason) illegal. Why stop with marijuana? Why indeed?

Yes and No - Cathy - Mar 17th 2010

Well, this makes me think of my call to Animal Control today.  Pitbulls are not allowed in the city limits but a dog (young, about a year) that looked like a pitbull was loose and came in a standoff with my dog but the owner finally called it back after a few attempts.  Prior to this, I had not reported the dog.  I feel that if they take care of their business on their property, that is fine but the moment it intrudes on me, their freedom ends.  I think it is unfair to forbid pitbulls and the city already has an ordinance against vivious dogs which to me covers what needs to be covered.  With the drug, will these people be stoned and on the roadway?  If so, is there a way to easily test them as with alcohol to punish those who endanger others.  Here, crack is ignored and distributed rather openly so maybe we should allow that also?  It becomes a real question as to where to draw the line or should there be a line.  Everyone wants to be stoned on something it seems whether illegal or legal - they need to not to get on my turf!!!

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