Friday, April 8, 2011

Medical Marijuana, A Human Right?

As my group and I have gotten further into our documentary project we have been delving into the medical field and specifically, we have been facing the real life topic of terminally ill individuals. As described by Google Dictionary, “Terminal illness is a medical term popularized in the 20th century to describe an active and malignant disease that cannot be cured or adequately treated and that is reasonably expected to result in the death of the patient.” One of the most common forms of terminal illness that people tend to associate with terminal illness is cancer. Cancer is a type of disease, which is caused by uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in any part of the body. Cancer has become a phenomenon and unfortunately most of us can say we know someone who has suffered from cancer or are currently battling against cancer. Since cancer is so predominant in our current society, one of the most debated topics involving cancer is medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana seems to have a long list of both pros and cons. Supporters of medical marijuana argue that it is a safe and effective treatment for symptoms of cancer. If medical marijuana has the potential to relieve cancer patients from potential pain or pain that already exists then is it a human right to be able to be free of that pain? Although marijuana is not a legal substance, should cancer patients or terminally ill patients be allowed to use the illegal drug as a means to rid themselves of pain they face because of their medical problems?

Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not explicitly state that human beings should be free from suffering, according to the European Convention on Human Rights, people have the right “not to suffer.” Why do you think there is a difference between the Universal Declaration and the European Convention? Is suffering a human right violation, specifically for those who are terminally ill? If suffering is a human right violation, should medical marijuana be legal for people who desperately need relief from the pain they suffer from each day? Below I will include a link I found that directly deals with the controversial issue of medical marijuana. I encourage you all to look at the link then please let me know what you think. Although the UDHR would not find the case of medical marijuana plausible but it’s standards, do you think that this should change? Let me know that you think. Link


  1. It's interesting to talk about the legalization of marijuana in the context of terminally ill patients. I am not sure we could say we have a human right to use marijuana, but I do think that marijuana should be option for the terminally ill. Terminally ill patients already have access to narcotics such as morphine, why not marijuana or even stronger hallucinogens? I've heard of studies done (although I can't seem to find any of them at the moment) that show that hallucinogens such as psychedelic mushrooms or LSD can help treat some of the anxiety associated with terminally ill patients.

  2. Yeah here is a good article from the Guardian about LSD -

    I could talk for hours just about how ACID/LSD has been shown to have huge medicinal uses for end of life health, using LSD instead of Morphine or other opiates.

    Back to medical weed. It has been shown to help lots of people who are cancer patients eat food and return to a normal lifestyle. For others like glaucoma patients it helps to relieve pain and let them gain some happiness.

    For the rest of us, weed could be a substitute for alcohol or coffee. In the next few decades, the global opinion of medical weed might shift, as new studies come out.

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  4. The absolute fervor of marijuana's adversaries in society, in addition to the unforgiving penalties that are received by offenders, is not merely explicable as a concern for the public good. The laws that are now used to fight the drug war are definitely causing more harm than good. Honestly, though, a cultural and ethical confrontation fought on behalf of the governmental power as a way of "preserving American ideals", the current war against marijuana reminds me eerily of a former Soviet-like nation, with the emergence of an immense population of prisoners, the extensive confiscation of private property without trial, and a marked amplification in the prosecuting power of the state and federal legislators. Of course Nixon created the drug schedule because of the protesters against his war. J Edgar Hoover said that they couldn't arrest people on speech, but they could on drug charges. Voila. Marijuana is illegal. Also, it is in schedule one of the drug schedule, which states that the drugs therein are highly addictive and have no medical use whatsoever. Go figure.

    The thing is, though, marijuana is an amazing substance with great potential in the medical world. Opponents of marijuana often cite smoking being bad to overall health. While this is true, the benefits definitely outweigh the costs. Marijuana is a known antiemetic, appetite modifier, and analgesic with low toxicity and low addiction rates. Additionally, marijuana decreases intraocular pressure, which would be useful in the treatment of glaucoma. Also, marijuana has been shown to reduce emotional salience, which would be useful for treating tormented individuals with post traumatic stress disorder. All of the properties of marijuana would be useful in caring for the terminally ill. The right to life with dignity and free from suffering is a human right. The fact that cancer patients often waste away is heart-breaking. It makes no sense to me why a substance that has so much good potential is simply viewed as a problem. The government is denying people a hugely beneficial product that could ease suffering. Once again, I ask the question: is our government mandating human suffering?

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  6. Liz, you bring up a great example of the difference between positive and negative rights. In this case, freedom from suffering is the negative right, and access to medical marijuana is the positive right up for debate. We often hear of debates that take place when positive and negative rights conflict, but what about when the two seem to align yet one is not realized? If we made access to marijuana a human right by virtue of the European right “not to suffer,” it seems like doing so would open the door for an endless amount of positive rights claims.


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