Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

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(Patients Out of Time co-founder and President, Mary Lynn Mathre, recently had a piece published by the website WalletHub on the question of “Should Marijuana Be Legalized?” Following is ML’s article, which also appears here.)

Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

First of all, we should call it Cannabis – the proper name for this highly beneficial plant. There is much baggage with ‘marijuana’ or ‘marihuana,’ the Mexican name for this ancient plant. The alcohol prohibition had ended in the 1930s and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs needed a new drug menace to justify their existence. Cannabis was a well-known and commonly used medicine, but the bureau’s head, Harry Anslinger, purposely used the Mexican name for cannabis to create a reefer madness hysteria about a ‘new and dangerous drug’ that was based on lies, racism and greed. And today, despite all of the national studies that fail to justify its prohibition, cannabis remains illegal under federal law.

Over the last several decades I’ve come to realize that the larger question should be: How did we ever allow a PLANT to become prohibited by law in the first place? The idea that we have been accepting the prohibition of this plant and the subsequent punishment for those who plant its seeds, grow the plant, use the plant, share or sell the plant is totally insane.

We haven’t banned grapevines, yet one can make wine from the grapes. We haven’t banned grains, yet one can make alcoholic beverages from them. We haven’t banned tobacco even though it is linked to more than 400,000 annual deaths. We haven’t banned the toxic plant Foxglove from which digitalis, a heart medication, is made. We haven’t banned mushrooms – some of which are poisonous while others are hallucinogenic. We haven’t banned poison ivy, even though this plant causes harm to most who come in contact with it. Why have we allowed cannabis to be prohibited?

Cannabis is a remarkable non-toxic plant along with its low-THC cousin hemp. Yes, one can dry the leaves and flowers of the plant and smoke them or make medicinal products from the plant (which may or may not have psychoactive properties depending upon the amount of ONE of the cannabinoids found in the plant). But beyond its use as an intoxicant or as an herbal medicine, the plant can be used to make food, fuel, paper, building materials, bedding, skin and hair products, textiles, biodegradable plastics and more. And I haven’t even mentioned the newly discovered endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps explain how and why cannabis is essential for optimal health.

The DEA has placed cannabis in Schedule I (the forbidden drug category) of the Controlled Substances. A synthetic form of THC was developed in capsule form and was approved as a Schedule II medicine in 1985 and several years later down-regulated to Schedule III. How is it possible that the one chemical in the plant that causes the ‘high’ is legal, while the whole plant is forbidden?

As a nurse, I know of no other plant that can provide so many health benefits to individuals, communities, and the planet. The prohibition of the cannabis/hemp plant is a crime against nature. Let’s end the insanity and free this plant.