Wonder Drug

Perspective can be everything.

A few years ago, after alarmist reports about the dangers of the compound dihydrogen monoxide, many people responded and called for government regulation.  The reports noted such dangers as severe tissue damage after prolonged exposure to its solid form, its corrosive effects on metals, its presence in tumor biopsies, and numerous reports of death associated with its accidental inhalation.  But even in the face of such dangers, there was no prohibition on its use in numerous household products, including as an additive to baby food, in cough medicines, shampoos, shaving creams, and in all the coffee served at coffee houses throughout the United States.

Dihydrogen monoxide — H2O — is, of course, simply water, and the list of its possible hazards, while accurate, was deliberately couched in a way that made it sound more dangerous than it really is.

What if people were told of the amazing properties of a drug that is currently being investigated by researchers?  One that has the ability to fight multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and other forms of inflammatory disease.  It is also known to alleviate pain, reduce nausea in some patients, and to ease the impact of many sleep and mood disorders like stress, anxiety, and depression.  Researchers are currently testing its effectiveness on rheumatoid arthritis, Tourette syndrome, epilepsy, and schizophrenia, among others.  There are even recent reports suggesting that it shows promise as a cancer treatment by killing malignant brain, skin, and pancreatic cells without harming surrounding healthy cells.  Wouldn’t they be outraged that the government continues to ban this drug merely because it also has some psychoactive properties?

The drugs that seem to have all of these wonderful properties are derived from marijuana, which remains banned throughout most of the U.S.  Currently, only fourteen U.S. states allow medical uses of marijuana, but the medical-marijuana movement is active in seeking decriminalization in the other states.

The perception among many — and the perception is accurate to a large degree — is that those who actively seek decriminalization of marijuana do so mainly because they want to experience its psychoactive effects.  Its “medical” uses are used as a cover to argue for legalization so that, quite simply, they can get high legally.  But even if that is a motivation among many, it does not diminish the fact that there are legitimate medical treatments that use marijuana and that an understanding of those treatments is critical in deciding at what level the government should regulate its use.