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Shady Alleys

I once knew a woman who grew marijuana in a small pot next to her kitchen sink. She was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer and smoked cannabis to ease the nausea, vomiting, pain, and fatigue caused by the treatment. After her cancer had gone into remission, she continued to smoke, even though she was no longer experiencing side effects from chemo. She had become addicted and frequently smoked it in front of her children. As a teenager, I believe that the legalization of marijuana for medical use will send the wrong message. Allowing an illegal and harmful drug as a medical option may encourage young adults to think that marijuana is safe for recreational use. The Food and Drug Administration lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Schedule I substances have a high potential for abuse and lack accepted medical use.

It has been proven that marijuana not only damages the brain, heart, lungs, and immune system, but it interferes with memory, perception, and judgment. The fact that the drug contains cancer-causing compounds raises more questions about the value of its use; it is ironic that a cancer patient would smoke a cancer-causing drug when there are many legal and less-dangerous prescription drugs available.

The FDA says it will continue to be receptive to scientifically based research into the medicinal uses of botanical marijuana. However, because medical marijuana's purpose is to relieve symptoms, it may not be a high priority for approval.

I have noticed a tremendous amount of people pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana via websites, government petitions, and advertisements in periodicals, including the San Diego Reader. Why are so many people committing such a great amount of their time and resources trying to legalize a single herb for symptom relief? What is their true agenda? Their time would be much better spent encouraging the research and development of drugs that can cure and prevent the diseases that cause such symptoms in the first place.

With so many people working to legalize medical marijuana, what is next for California? The legalization of heroin for medical use? Some may claim it alleviates symptoms of their disease. -- Erin Bradley, Rancho Bernardo H.S.

They had me on a morphine drip and, boy, was I happy. Two years ago, I dislocated my left knee in gym class, and the only thing that kept me from chewing my throbbing leg off like a trapped fox was the painkiller. That's why I cannot dismiss the arguments of activists for medical marijuana.

Lawyers, judges, and even doctors cannot judge the pain a person experiences. Only the sufferer knows the extent of their pain. It is not right for lawmakers to decide whether marijuana can be used for medicine; the choice must be given to users who are being advised by responsible doctors. But there must be guidelines for use.

Medical marijuana users should not be allowed to grow their own plants. I am not allowed to manufacture Prozac in my bedroom, so it should not be legal for medical marijuana users to grow their own medicine. To retain the medical label, marijuana should be prescribed and distributed like any other pharmaceutical, through a pharmacy. The main roadblock for this policy: medical marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Some people argue that legalizing medical marijuana nationwide would encourage impressionable adolescents to try the drug. I go to high school; believe me, laws are not discouraging anyone determined to get high from getting marijuana. Many teen users see the law as a fun hurdle to jump. Activists for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use hear this and argue, "Then why not legalize marijuana altogether?" A drawback to legalizing marijuana -- besides the increase in irresponsible teenagers taking a mind-numbing drug -- is that parents who tell their children to "just say no" will no longer be backed up by the law.

My knee is fine now; I was in a brace for only three weeks. But there are responsible people who are in chronic pain and may never be healthy again. Medical marijuana can ease that pain. Many Americans do not sanction cruel and unusual punishment, so why should the ill be allowed to suffer? -- Madeline McCurry-Schmidt, Valhalla H.S.

Marijuana is often associated with delinquents and deals in shady alleys. Many people, especially parents, are convinced that marijuana is a "gateway" drug that leads to further narcotic use. However, as grounded as this stereotype claims to be, it is not relevant in the case of medical marijuana. The effective use of cannabis for medicinal purposes has been proven by prominent research groups and endorsed by national organizations such as the American Cancer Society. California's Compassionate Use Act allows patients with a doctor's approval to grow, smoke, or acquire the drug for medical needs. The law paved the way for the drug to be used to relieve painful effects of multiple sclerosis, cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, diabetes, and chemotherapy. Opponents of medical marijuana need to face reality and put aside pre-conceived notions of "that hippie drug."

Some people fear that abuse will increase if medical marijuana is entirely legalized. However, many people forget that doctors already prescribe more addictive and potentially lethal drugs to patients, including attention deficit disorder drugs such as Ritalin and pain relievers such as morphine and Vicodin. An overdose on any of these drugs can lead to death; in contrast, smoking marijuana cannot. The claim that marijuana is more addictive than morphine or Ritalin (which is becoming popular among teenagers) is ludicrous. Furthermore, marijuana's legalization as a medical drug has not led to an increase in teen usage.

According to the California Student Survey, teen marijuana use in California continued to rise steadily from 1990 to 1996 but began falling immediately after the first medical marijuana law was passed in 1996. Even Drug Enforcement Agency chief administrative law judge Francis L. Young ruled in 1988, "In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating ten raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death."

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