Politicians and patients have been engaged in interactive discussions for years about the medicinal use of marijuana to relieve chronic symptoms of some medical conditions. People with debilitating ailments often require the side effects of marijuana usage, such as boosting appetite, reducing anxiety, or relieving chronic pain. Yet the substance remains federally illegal among other harsher drugs and seems to share the same stigma in popular opinion.
The debate of this issue is still largely driven by social media, which is connecting the stakeholders in this debate, including politicians, patients, and medical researchers. Interactive discussions run rampant about use of medical marijuana in situations where standard approved medical remedies cannot provide necessary relief. Such social discussions have gained the attention of politicians who offers some support of the issue. This brings hope that the debate will bring change to Capitol Hill, as well. Though the substance is still illegal at the federal level, six states have passed political measures that make medical marijuana legal. Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, Oregon and Washington are leaders in this arena, triggering other states to consider changes, as well.
So far, open forums on the topic have helped to provide scientific findings and popular opinions about the pros and cons of medical marijuana. As with any decision related to health, the majority seems to think it should be less dependent on politics and more driven by scientific data. Some point out that the amazing part of this debate is the fact that smoking cigarettes is legal, even though it is scientifically proven that they harm users. Marijuana, however, is illegal, even though it is also smoked, has similar detrimental effects as cigarettes, but has been shown to heal or otherwise help some people with severe health conditions. What's the hold up? Apparently there is still limited scientific understanding of the functional pathways of the drug. There is hope, though, but science also cautions us to the hazards, including lung damage and weakened immune systems. Researchers still highlight medical marijuana as a last resort.
The real problem here seems to remain lack of education on the topic. Online discussion formats could provide that educational tool that will combat opponents' biggest fears. Their main concern is that marijuana approved for medical use (thus misinterpreted as "safe") will send out the wrong message to teenagers and others who may use the substance illegally as a result. Isn't perceived "safety" the very issue we are combatting with regard to cigarettes, as well? Should patients be subjected to pharmaceutical concoctions in lieu of a natural remedy simply because of this risk that we already face?
Those of us who are not suffering from the very conditions that the substance could treat should not be the only ones making such a critical decision about medicinal marijuana. Fortunately, this is where social media comes in, enabling the interactive discussions that need to happen to explore the issue. These sites or outlets are necessary for the advancement of modern medicine.
Kayla Olsen is a freelance writer who thinks open mindedness and open forums such as http://www.tawkers.com can potentially make great strides in society.