The Medical Marijuana Controversy: Pros & Cons

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  • 0:01 Background
  • 0:20 Pros
  • 2:07 Cons
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Williams

Jennifer has taught various courses in U.S. Government, Criminal Law, Business, Public Administration and Ethics and has an MPA and a JD.

In this lesson, we will learn about the pros and cons of marijuana use as a medical option. We will learn about the history of medical marijuana, the proponents' arguments, and the opponents' rationale against legalization.


In 1970, the Congress of the United States of America declared that marijuana should be included in the Controlled Substances Act as a schedule one drug due to the high abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Since the act became law, nearly half of the states in the country have declared the medical use of marijuana legal.

Pros of Medical Marijuana

Those who support medical marijuana argue that there are a significant number of studies and reports that demonstrate the success of its use throughout world history and other cultures. It is thought that the use of marijuana for medical purposes began around 2700 B.C. in China. It then spread west to India and North Africa before reaching Europe around A.D. 500 and North America around A.D. 1500. Various historical uses include treatment for arthritis, pain during labor, and side effects of epilepsy and AIDS.

It is also argued that ailments such as cancer, migraines, and chronic pain can be managed and treated effectively with marijuana use. Proponents are quick to point out that marijuana is an effective treatment against nausea that may arise from chemotherapy, headaches, and other issues. They argue that the side effects of marijuana may be less than those from prescription medications.

Lastly, proponents argue that the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes will lessen crime. Individuals who use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is not legal have to obtain it through illegal means. This increases crime, the violence that comes along with illegal acts, and the potential for addiction. If medical marijuana is legal, it can be regulated by the government and medical personnel to provide the proper amount for treatment and limit addiction.

Cons of Medical Marijuana Use

Opponents of medical marijuana argue that it can be risky to use as a treatment option when compared to other drugs that are already legal. One particular point they raise is that medical studies have shown that the left hippocampus, or left hemisphere of the brain, is especially susceptible to marijuana use and may be permanently altered with use. This can result in a host of mood-altering and behavioral issues.

They also argue that marijuana is addictive and may be a gateway drug, or a stepping stone, for other illegal controlled substances. The first time a person uses marijuana, it typically results in a sense of euphoria, or a feeling of intense happiness. However, because a tolerance to the drug begins, it is argued that users will turn to other drugs to achieve the same state of euphoria. Opponents of medical marijuana use point to studies that have found that youth who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine, a highly dangerous illegal substance.

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