Checking Up: Kentucky healthcare system has a need for weed

Morgan Profumo

Morgan Profumo

The recreational use of marijuana is legal in four states: Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska. Its medical use is becoming more widespread across the United States. Currently, 19 states have legalized marijuana medically. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, more than 70 percent of American voters support doctor-recommended use of marijuana to help address and eliminate pain.

The governmental regulation of marijuana for recreational use is more understandable than the laws against its medical use. According to an article written for the Huffington Post by Nick Wing, no one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana. It would take 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC in one single joint to be at risk of dying. According to the same article, in 2010 there were 38,329 deaths due to overdose, and 60 percent of those were related to prescribed medication. Considering this statistic, it is hard to believe the legalization of painkillers and other prescribed medication is justified when the U.S. already suffers from overdose problems.

In the same year, approximately 25,692 people died of alcohol-induced causes. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug, but its psychological effects can outweigh the fact that regulated amounts of marijuana would not lead to death. In alcohol’s case, no medical benefits justify its legalization, yet for recreational use there is no regulation other than age. According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, being caught in Kentucky with less than 8 ounces of marijuana is considered a Class B misdemeanor. This is punishable by up to 45 days in prison and a fine of $250 dollars. If you are caught driving drunk, you receive a DUI and potential prison time. Compared to drunk driving, possession of marijuana is less potentially harmful since drunk driving is a common killer.

Medical legalization also has health benefits for people suffering from cancer, glaucoma and AIDS. According to the Huffington Post, THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — has therapeutic benefits that can help relieve pain. If doctors could prescribe a drug with low overdose potential compared to strong painkillers, some of which are highly addictive, this could lower the death rate and help relieve drug abuse.

Legal marijuana’s health benefits definitely outweigh its potential drawbacks, which are much less severe than the downsides of some already-legal substances. Alcohol, which has no health benefits, and prescription painkillers, which are often abused, are far more threatening than marijuana. Legalizing and regulating medical marijuana would benefit Kentucky medically and fiscally.