In 1913, California became the first state to outlaw marijuana. However, in 1996, under the Compassionate Use Act (also known as California’s Proposition 215), California became the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes only. Since then, 13 other states have followed California in legalizing medical marijuana. Recently, the Justice Department stated that people who use medical marijuana or distribute it would not face federal prosecution, as long as they follow state law. This is a big step forward because prior to this, the federal government could press charges because marijuana isn’t legal on a federal level, but just in certain states. Also, this is a big step because it shows that the Obama administration is focusing on more important issues such as the war in Iraq or Healthcare.
Another thing currently happing with marijuana is its drug classification. In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act which classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it had no medicinal value and a high potential for abuse. However as we see with the passing of the Compassionate Use Act, this might not be the case anymore, in terms of its medicinal value. The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physicians organization, recommended that marijuana’s schedule classification be reviewed “for the purpose of facilitating research and the development of cannabinoid-based medicines.”
While the above policies are good news for the medical marijuana world, a new development is emerging in California that is becoming the center for debate for doctors. Doctors have now been prescribing minors who suffer from ADHD medical marijuana. Stephen Hinshaw, the chairman of the psychology department at Berkeley stated in response to this: “How many ways can one say one of the worst ideas of all time?”
While some doctors say medical marijuana is safer than aspirin and Ritalin and helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and anger, others say the THS in marijuana will just further intensify those with ADHD because it disrupts attention, memory and concentration. A second concern of doctors with prescribing minors medical marijuana is the issue of dependency. One doctor states: “It’s detrimental to adolescents who chronically use it, and if it’s being used medically, that implies chronic use.” A second doctor, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, describes that risk of dependency is a big issue because dependency is already high among adolescents and people with attention-deficit disorder.” Another possible risk with the use of medical marijuana by minors is the increase risk of psychosis and schizophrenia for those genetically predisposed to those illnesses.
While I support the use of medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana in general, I have to admit that I am a little uneasy with giving a 14 year old a prescription for medical marijuana. While some research supports use of marijuana in helping those suffering from ADHD, I feel more research needs to be done with minors specifically. Also, while many do not consider marijuana to be an addictive drug, I do agree that minors would be more susceptible to developing a dependency on it.