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Peter A. Clark, Kevin Capuzzi, Cameron Fick
Med Sci Monit 2011; 17(12): RA249-261
Marijuana is classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as an illegal Schedule I drug which has no accepted medical use. However, recent studies have shown that medical marijuana is effective in controlling chronic non-cancer pain, alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, treating wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, and controlling muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis. These studies state that the alleviating benefits of marijuana outweigh the negative effects of the drug, and recommend that marijuana be administered to patients who have failed to respond to other therapies. Despite supporting evidence, the DEA refuses to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would allow physicians to prescribe marijuana to suffering patients. The use of medical marijuana has continued to gain support among states, and is currently legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia. This is in stark contrast to the federal government’s stance of zero-tolerance, which has led to a heated legal debate in the United States. After reviewing relevant scientific data and grounding the issue in ethical principles like beneficence and nonmaleficence, there is a strong argument for allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana. Patients have a right to all beneficial treatments and to deny them this right violates their basic human rights.