Medication Lights Up: A Trend Story
On a quiet Monday afternoon at the shop, a buzzing sound goes off to alert everyone that someone is at the door. The receptionist gets up from her desk and walks over to the door, ready to greet the patient. The receptionist opens the door wide as a 75-year-old woman rolls through the doorway in a wheelchair. The old woman rolls through the lobby and into the next room where she finds a person standing behind a counter, displaying more than 50 different strains of marijuana. The person behind the counter greets the old woman with a smile and says, “What can I help you with?”
Marijuana has been a topic of controversy since it first integrated into America in the 1930s, says James Easton, Sociology Professor and culture identity specialist. Over the course of many years, society’s views of marijuana have shifted from it being a dangerous, crime-related drug to a medicine that can aid someone on their way to health.
While marijuana is still classified by the federal law as a drug that has a high potential for abuse and no acceptable medical use, Easton says that society’s views on marijuana have shifted due to the drug becoming prominent for the treatment of medical issues. For example, Easton explains findings that show that marijuana has been able to help cancer patients undergo chemotherapy by relieving pain and nausea. Marijuana has been used to treat patients with Glaucoma, chronic insomnia, anorexia, HIV and AIDS, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others, he says.
There has become a wide variety of patients that look to medicinal marijuana to treat their symptoms, and dispensaries carry most varieties of marijuana or THC concentrate to help them identify which type of ingestion is right for their bodies and conditions.
“A lot of people have changed their view on medicine,” says Bryan Ruiz, an employee at Marina Caregivers Collective in Marina Del Rey. Ruiz has worked at Marina Caregivers for a year and says that he has seen many patients who had never tried using marijuana until their doctor recommended it to them. “People have come in that have never smoked in their lives,” he says. When patients come in to the shop that are not familiar with all aspects of marijuana, he and his coworkers help to inform them about the different types of ingesting THC. THC is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that produces the psychological effects of marijuana, he says. Dispensaries also carry substances with cannabinoids, or CBD, which produce only the physical pain relief, he says.
Ruiz says that he sees patients on a regular basis that come to get marijuana to treat symptoms like chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety, or relief for chemotherapy. “Patients are always open to suggestions and they like recommendations,” he says. Dispensaries carry THC or CBD concentrate in many forms such as edibles, drinks, wax, pills, topical creams, or other things besides the bud from the cannabis plant to accommodate patients who do not like to smoke. “A lot of people think it’s bad because they link it to smoking,” he says.
When people become more educated about the right type of marijuana for their bodies and conditions, Ruiz says people find that they are surprised at how their views of it change. Ruiz explains the difference between indica strains being downers and sativa strains being uppers. “A lot of people, mothers for example, prefer sativas because if they do an indica, their kids are going to be running around while they’re asleep on the couch,” he says. He explains that people can choose marijuana according to whether they need a psychological upper or a physical downer according to their symptoms that need to be treated. This information about marijuana is usually not commonly known, he says, and once people understand how to use marijuana in the right dosages, they usually view it as a natural medicine versus a harmful drug.
Since more and more patients have found that marijuana can act as a medicine for them, society has started to look at the use of marijuana in a more positive light. Many people are beginning to look at Marijuana less like a substance to get them high and more like an aid to their everyday life.
Monica Guitierrez, a patient at Marina Caregivers Collective, says she has experienced the changing societal views of marijuana herself. Guitierrez works as an elementary school teacher’s assistant and never thought she would ever consider trying marijuana. “I never smoked or did anything when I was younger,” she says. “I have always been against it.” Guitierrez says that her parents raised her and her siblings to believe that marijuana was a drug that was very bad for you, she says. She thought that it was something that lazy teenagers used to get high. She says she was afraid to be around people that smoked marijuana when she was a teenager because she was afraid she might get in trouble with the law.
Guitierrez was diagnosed with a health condition called Lupis 10 years ago and she is required to take a lot of medications that give her harsh side effects, she says. She says that her disease affects her internal organs by causing pain throughout her body and joints. She also says that it makes her eyes sensitive to sunlight and fluorescent lights, which cause her to get headaches and migraines. She says that she tried several medications and they were all very costly and made her sick to her stomach, which stopped her from working and doing other daily activities. Her doctor recommended that she try medicinal marijuana for her pain, and she has completely changed her views of it now, she says. “I always disagreed with people that smoked because I didn’t know the benefits that the plant had,” she says. “I know it’s not just an excuse for getting high now.”
Guitierrez says she uses edible forms of THC from Marina Caregivers Collective because she doesn’t like to smoke. She says that edibles are able to relieve her pain in a more affordable way so that she can tolerate her essential medications for Lupis. She hopes that she can wean herself off of some harsher medications she is currently taking with the help of medical marijuana for her pain, she says. She says that a lot of people she knows view marijuana the same way that she did before she tried it, but thinks it should be legal for medicinal purposes in all states now. “I think we should be a little more educated on the subject because, when you’re in the dark, you don’t know what it really does,” she says.
When marijuana first integrated into the United States in the 1930’s, the government, particularly the Federal Bureau for Narcotics, argued for its prohibition, Easton says. America felt fear towards crime and immigration during this time, and the government played on this fear to enforce the idea that marijuana was dangerous. Society thought of marijuana as a drug that was brought from Mexico and, if ingested, lead to insanity and murder, he says. Society’s fear of marijuana was reinforced through many elements in the media. One prime example of this is the film “Reefer Madness,” Easton says. “Reefer Madness” was made in 1936 and it showed people that marijuana was a violent narcotic that caused uncontrollable laughter, dangerous hallucinations, violence, and incurable insanity. Easton explains that this influence of anti-marijuana propaganda lead to the passing of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. This Act officially prohibited the drug, which made it a federal offense to have possession of the drug, distribute it, or sell it, he says.
As of the year 2015, 21 states in the U.S. have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana as of 2015, Easton says. Twelve remaining states still have pending legislation ballots, and three states have legalized the use of marijuana to anyone over the age of 21, he says. When looking at America’s views on complete legalization of marijuana, Easton shows that 53% of citizens favor the legalization, while 44% oppose. Those who favor legalization say that the health benefits of marijuana’s medicinal uses are the reason, he says. These people also believe that marijuana is not as harmful as other drugs or substances already legal in the U.S., he says. Those who oppose legalization say that marijuana is harmful to young people whose brains are not fully developed, and acts as a gateway drug that leads to other drugs that are even more dangerous, Easton says. Although, he explains that even though 44% of Americans oppose the overall legalization of marijuana, they don’t oppose the use of marijuana medicinally as prescribed by a doctor.
Due to the history of patients’ experiences, the views of the medicinal use of marijuana have changed all over the country. Society has crossed a major milestone since the 1930’s and has begun to decriminalize the drug, Ruiz says. Some companies have even used the non-psychoactive strain of cannabis called hemp as a resource for foods, clothing, body care, paper, and thousands of other products, Easton says. There are still some media elements that show marijuana in a negative light today, but they are mostly directed toward young teens. Ultimately, Americans’ views of marijuana have lightened up a great deal. Before, what was known as a criminal offense and the abuse of a recreational drug, is now a natural alternative for people with chronic illnesses, and possibly even a substance no worse than alcohol or tobacco.