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(USA) Cannabis has several valid medicinal, economic uses

In 1996, California”s Proposition 215 decriminalized the use, possession and sale of marijuana for medical purposes.

Although voters have passed similar measures in eight other states, terminally ill patients with doctors” prescriptions can still be prosecuted and thrown in jail under federal law for merely possessing marijuana. No matter what our views are on general legalization, as informed citizens, we must recognize cannabis as valuable medicine and crop and

implore our government to legalize it.

Marijuana helps people keep food down, especially those who must swallow daily drug cocktails and endure nausea-inducing chemotherapy. “It”s important to keep weight on because HIV eats away body-muscle mass,” says a 43-year-old AIDS patient with “wasting syndrome.” Another man told author Jack Herer that “without pot you are dying with cancer, while with pot you are living with cancer.” Marijuana decreases seizure frequency in up to 30 percent of epileptic patients for whom side-effect-ridden drugs like Valium and Percodan fail. It also eases glaucoma patient”s ocular pressure and assists patients with such debilitating problems as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, post-polio syndrome and severe arthritis.

Legal, oral synthetic forms of THC (marijuana”s active ingredient), such as Marinol, help many, while others complain Marinol is too strong, is anxiety-provoking and difficult to control. California patients grow marijuana in their backyards and process it into butter for brownies and Rice Krispie treats, or a tincture for soy milk. Decriminalization would eliminate the need to pay for expensive Marinol or black-market pot. The ill could simply grow it themselves (away from drug dealers), or buy from pharmacies that could sell it at two percent of its $4,000 per pound street value. However, many AIDS and cancer patients with such nausea can”t stomach anything and smoke is the only option.

Many reputable sources maintain the legitimacy of medical marijuana. The BBC reported that 80 percent of British doctors would prescribe marijuana to patients with serious illnesses a 1991 Harvard Medical School survey of 1,035 oncologists found that 54 percent favored making it a prescription drug 44 percent said they”d broken the law by illegally recommending it. Even former-Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey concluded, in a National Institute of Medicine Report, that patients suffering from severe pain, nausea and appetite loss might find “broad spectrum relief not found in any other single medication” in marijuana.

Federal laws also fail to distinguish between marijuana and industrial hemp. Why? Marijuana”s botanical cousin, bred for its fiber, seeds and oil, contains only .05-1 percent THC, while pot contains 3 to 20 percent THC. Clearly no one can get high by smoking industrial hemp. Thirty industrialized democracies recognize the difference. Canada legalized hemp, and the European Union subsidizes hemp farms. One acre produces the fiber pulp of 4.1 acres of trees. Hemp grows quickly, naturally and pesticide-free in a wide variety of climates and soil types it”s a weed requiring far fewer processing chemicals than wood or cotton. Over 25,000 products can be made from hemp, including stronger and longer-lasting paper and clothing. A valuable food, easily-digestible hempseed oil contains 25 percent protein and 81 percent polyunsaturated essential fatty acids (the highest amount in the entire plant kingdom).

Despite these astounding facts, the government continues to ignore this wonderful gift Mother Nature has given us: The cannabis sativa plant.

Angelica Leone

LSA first-year student