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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Medical marijuana: a blazing debate

Pot, reefer, weed, marijuana. Whatever name you associate with cannabis, the plant and its various forms are now in the hands of medical researchers and, in some U.S. states, the hands of prescribed patients.The uses for cannabis vary, and although it is sometimes viewed simply as a psychoactive drug, its uses extend beyond recreation. Marijuana is legal in 13 states for medical use, and many other states have pending legislations on the issue.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes is still an ongoing debate and many studies have been done in the past few years to highlight the positive effects and the repercussions of marijuana use.

An article from Alternet, a news magazine, relayed a recent medical marijuana debate between a study from a medical institute in New Zealand and a study from medical school professor Donald Tashkin at UCLA.

Jason Rainwater, a political science major, says that studies like these “help people to become more aware of both sides of the issue and to recognize both the positive and negative sides of medical marijuana.”

Tashkin’s 2005 study found that marijuana smokers were at a lower risk of developing lung cancer than tobacco smokers, and tobacco smokers who also smoked marijuana were at a lower risk of lung cancer than those that solely smoked tobacco.

He also found that the risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) was accelerated for tobacco smokers, but marijuana smokers and non-smokers had similar rates of decline.

Tashkin’s study at UCLA found that marijuana yielded positive effects on the body. Negative effects were the summation of the following New Zealand study.

Richard Beasley of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand reported, from his 2008 study, that “those who smoked the equivalent of one joint a day for 10 years had a 5.7 times higher lung cancer risk than nonsmokers even after adjusting for tobacco use.”

The researchers concluded that their study was “sufficient to convince everybody that lung cancer has to be added to the list of secondary effects of cannabis smoking, along with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”

The researchers’ comments seem to come off as more of a personal conclusion rather than a scientific one. Still, the 2008 New Zealand study was reported on worldwide: quite a contrast from the study done at UCLA a few years prior, which did not even get coverage from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The NIDA apparently did not view Tashkin’s findings on the positive aspects of marijuana use as worthy of printing. The negative findings from New Zealand’s study, however, gained international recognition.

Tashkin investigated New Zealand’s study and found the research to be skewed.

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