Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs in the world, according to the latest United Nations World Drug Report. That statement, however, really sticks in the craw of those cannabis advocates who argue that the cannabis plant is an herb, not a drug. They believe that drugs are concoctions created by pharmaceutical companies, not something that is natural and from the Earth.
But what is the real answer to this age-old debate? Does marijuana fall into the classification of a drug, or is it something else altogether?
Well, a drug, by definition, is any substance that affects the way the body functions physically or psychologically. Most Americans never stop to consider just how many “drugs” they actually use regularly, but the list is vast, as it includes alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and even aspirin. These substances are ingested into the body and pass through the brain, where they fire off messages that ultimately leads to the desired result. In the case of caffeine, a person might feel more awake, while with something like aspirin, they could notice in time that they no longer have a headache.
Marijuana actually has a lot in common with mainstream drugs like alcohol and aspirin. It can be used to get high (recreational use) by stimulating pleasure receptors in the brain in the same way as food and sex. It is known for releasing a chemical called dopamine, which makes the user feel relaxed and euphoric.
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Meanwhile, millions of patients use cannabis for therapeutic benefits. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which consists of some of the leading scientific minds in the country, admits that cannabis can relieve some pain conditions, nausea, spasms and insomnia.
So, there are those people who use marijuana in the same way as others might beer — to unwind and have fun — while others lean on it as their medicine of choice.
The federal government considers marijuana to be a Schedule I dangerous drug — ranking right in there with heroin. This classification was determined based on the potential for abuse and a lack of research showing that it has any medicinal value. Still, more than 30 states have legalized the leaf for medicinal purposes. Some are giving access to people with severe health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and cancer, and others allow participation by those with various pain conditions.
Uncle Sam, however, refuses to fall in line with this trend because federal health agencies say there aren’t enough large-scale studies to show that marijuana can actually help America feel better.
But is marijuana really a drug? By definition, yes, it is. It is certainly not a dangerous drug in the same way as heroin or cocaine, but it still fits the criteria just like alcohol or even aspirin. The fact that weed is only a plant isn’t an argument either. Other vegetation, including peyote, tobacco and ayahuasca, are also drugs. Agree or not, cannabis certainly falls into the classification of a drug.