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The Ethics of Medical Marijuana: Government Restrictions vs. Medical Necessity

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Marijuana is listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as an illegal Schedule I drug which has no currently accepted medical use. However, on March 17, 1999, 11 independent scientists appointed by the Institute of Medicine reported that medical marijuana was effective in controlling some forms of pain, alleviating nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, treating wasting due to AIDS, and combating muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. There was also no evidence that using marijuana would increase illicit drug use or that it was a “gateway” drug. Despite this evidence the DEA refuses to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would allow physicians to prescribe unadulterated and standardized forms of marijuana. After reviewing the pertinent scientific data and applying the principle of double effect, there is a proportionate reason for allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana. Seriously ill patients have the right to effective therapies. To deny patients access to such a therapy is to deny them dignity and respect as persons.

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Clark, P. The Ethics of Medical Marijuana: Government Restrictions vs. Medical Necessity. J Public Health Pol 21, 40–60 (2000).

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