It is a well-known fact by now that marijuana has been used as medicine for centuries, providing “releaf” to people across the globe. Even in America, marijuana was promoted as an effective medication for a long time. So what happened? Politics is the simple answer.
The plant was banned in 1937, and the term “marijuana” was invented to confuse Americans who had positive associations with hemp and cannabis. However, this didn’t stop Americans from smoking it. And it certainly didn’t stop the growing demands for medical cannabis. The government had to do something. Ere go, government grown marijuana was supplied to researchers for “scientific experimentation.”
The first attempt to synthetically replicate the medicinal effects of marijuana failed miserably. The plant was then tossed into politics again, this time, the federal government making it a Schedule I drug (the most dangerous category of drugs). This added a whole new dimension of controversy for the plant that once provided medical benefit for so many people. The government continued to ignore previous studies showing marijuana’s medicinal benefits, and instead just prayed for a pharmaceutical alternative. With this, Marinol entered the medical arena.
Marinol is an oral form of THC. Experiments on the drug first started with cancer patients in 1980, by six states and the National Cancer Institute. The state-sponsored studies concluded, much to the government’s chagrin, that thousands of patients found marijuana to be safer and more effective than synthetic THC.
However, the National Cancer Institute’s study concluded that some patients did respond well to Marinol. Confronted with conflicting results, the government chose to throw out the six state-sponsored studies and give Marinol the green light based on the National Cancer Institute’s recommendation. The government then sold the Marinol patent to a pharmaceutical company, which promptly began selling it for profit to terminally ill cancer patients (after FDA approval). They continued to promote the drug to oncologists and AIDS doctors, ultimately making millions of dollars on selling Marinol.
Few proponents of Marinol are aware of the intricate process involved in making such a unique drug. Unlike marijuana, which only requires light, water and few nutrients, Marinol involves multiple complex chemical processes and a lot of time. The steps involved are intricate and expensive, which just goes to show that replicating marijuana’s medical benefit is no easy task.
Considering the fact that marijuana and Marinol are made from two completely different processes, it comes as a surprise to hear that they have essentially the same therapeutic effects. The arguments for and against both have been debated for decades. On the one side, marijuana proponents claim that Marinol produces more damaging side effects. On the other side, Marinol proponents argue that marijuana possesses more “undocumented side effects.”
So what are the side-effects of Marinol? The list of effects include some potentially scary reactions, including abdominal pain, depression, nightmares, psychological and physiological dependence. One can even overdose on Marinol (which is virtually impossible on marijuana. See our marijuana myth blog to learn more). Symptoms of overdose can include mental/mood changes and seizures.
When compared to the potential negative side effects of marijuana, which include dry mouth, sleepiness, red eyes and possible paranoia in some users, it is hard to see why people should be taking Marinol instead of marijuana. Except that it’s legal. Many believe that the higher concentration of THC in Marinol contributes to the more extreme side effects, with one patient describing Marinol as a “way to psychoactive.”
In fact, patients consistently prefer marijuana over Marinol. But many patients are not given the option due to marijuana’s double standard. While the government and the FDA conducted hundreds of studies to find the adverse effects of marijuana, there are very few studies on the adverse effects of Marinol in comparison.
It’s ironic that sick people who prefer to use natural medicine to treat their ailments face criminal penalties while patients using synthetic THC get insurance coverage and freedom from prosecution. Medicine that’s been used for centuries to treatment numerous ailments, unfortunately, got wrapped up in politics, and the patients who need it for debilitating conditions are the ones who suffer most. Once the “war on drugs” took hold of the country during the Reagan era, marijuana faced even further opposition while Marinol was promoted as a safe and legal alternative, with no mention of the many negative side-effects or the fact that patients keep claiming marijuana works better. The government, meanwhile, will only provide funding for researchers who have the same opinions as them. So marijuana was never given the chance to be properly studied by those who thought it might be beneficial.
These days, marijuana is finally being given the attention it deserves. Many independently run and university studies on the plant show the positive and medicinal benefits. Marijuana prohibition is already ending in American states and countries around the world. And American support for the plant has never been so high (literally).
Meanwhile, the marijuana v. Marinol debate rages on. Many medical practitioners (especially those who graduated during the “just say no” Reagan era) accept the medical use of Marinol but not marijuana. However, this stance is slowly changing among medical practitioners, especially as pro-marijuana studies continue to pop up.
Despite a wealth of scientific knowledge on the medical benefits of marijuana, the federal government continues to disregard marijuana in favor of Marinol, an inferior form of medication. Marinol receives societal legitimacy and tax breaks while patients using marijuana continue to face possible prosecution and social stigma.
The Silver Lining: An overwhelming majority of American citizens support medical marijuana legalization. More people support recreational marijuana than ever before. State-run medical marijuana dispensaries, such as Las Vegas ReLeaf, are finally able to provide suffering patients with the medication they need to feel relief for numerous debilitating ailments. The patients are finally being listened to in over 20 states across the country and are able to use marijuana instead of Marinol. This is a historic moment for marijuana, and we are proud to be part of it.