The medical perspective on decriminalizing marijuana possession

You will have heard by now of a proposal to decriminalize the possession of a small quantity of marijuana. The pros and cons of this proposal have been and will continue to be debated; and there are strong arguments on both sides. The recreational and medicinal use are separate and distinct issues; this week, Healthy Living gets the medical facts on marijuana,  its effects and one medical professional’s opinion on the issue of decriminalization.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

By now, either by means of drug education or the glamorized drug use in pop culture, most people are exposed to marijuana and its effects. However, the effect of marijuana use varies with each individual. To find out more we spoke with Dr Fernando Cuellar to find out more about the drug.

Dr. Fernando Cuellar, Internist/Intensivist

“Actually they have been able to identify four hundred and eighty different substances in marijuana. Of course the one that pops out is the T.H.C. The cannaboid that is the actual substance that produces the effect of a state of euphoria and wellness as one has perceived it to be.”

The effect of T.H.C. on the body usually accounts for the high that marijuana users claim to experience.

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“It infers in the normal transmission of chemicals in the brain. It makes the person, feel a sense of euphoria a feeling good about themselves, in other words it fools the brain. It makes pain, be perceived less, it can interfere with the vomit center and the nausea center in the brain and that is the benefits or the reason why they use it in certain circumstances.”

Marijuana metabolizes quickly in the body, therefore the short term effects fade within hours, there is no definitive information available as to what the long term effects of marijuana use; but the research into this continues.   It is noted that some people are more susceptible to the addictive nature of the drug.

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“From the research I’ve done it’s says its idiosyncratic you really cannot explain it you really cannot predict it who will get addicted to the drug; just like any other medication. Some people react one way to the Tylenol and other people react a different way to the same Tylenol. It’s just the different chemical way you’re made.”

There are examples where marijuana is used for medicinal purposes. However, Dr. Cuellar implores that when talking about decriminalization that there be a clear distinction between recreational & medical marijuana use.

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“So far what has been the buzz in Belize is the decriminalization which is a completely different aspect from medical use of marijuana. They should not even be entertained in the same conversation. It’s a whole different thing. Medical use of marijuana is when it is prescribed by a physician or those who are in the authority to prescribe medication or certain specific circumstances and quite frankly. My research has for passed day has led me to [find out] that more and more the list for medical use of marijuana is getting shorter not like a decade ago where the list was so long. But I think consensually they have decided that it is helpful with multiple sclerosis, it’s helpful in stimulating appetite in certain wasting syndromes like HIV/Aids and pain control.”

As for his personal opinion on decriminalization as an experienced physician; he sees other areas that are more pertinent at this time.

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“My opinion on this is that we have bigger fishes to fry in Belize, this unfortunate distraction I’d want to us to be talking about forensic medicine if we really want to put our country forward.

Marleni Cuellar

“Are you concerned at all at about the health implications?”

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“I would be more concerned about alcohol use. Ok. Because I have seen alcohol doing more damage than marijuana.”


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