Pubdate: Wed, 20 Nov 2013
Source: Daily Bruin (UCLA, CA Edu)
Copyright: 2013, ASUCLA Student Media
Author: Ryan Nelson


In my other life outside of the offices of the Daily Bruin, I spend a 
lot of time at the various pools owned by UCLA.

On Monday, I was scheduled to guard a water aerobics class at the 
school's rehabilitation pool in Westwood.

Imagine my surprise when, as opposed to conversations about the 
minutiae of their day, I overheard the people in the class talk about 
something a little, well, greener: pot.

A debate had started up over the merits of medical marijuana as a 
tool in coping with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, a 
degenerative nerve condition that each person in the class had in 
some form or another.

One woman, Michelle Hazan, had used it and stopped because she didn't 
like "the munchies." She stopped not because weed is some evil herb, 
like we're used to hearing, but because she didn't want to gain weight.

Another woman, Homa Fani, had begun using marijuana in order to curb 
the pain she experienced on a daily basis. She had been hesitant to 
start using marijuana because she wanted to be a good role model for 
her kids - until her kids grew up and convinced her to try it.

Given the fact that these individuals are old enough to have seen 
Richard Nixon start the "war on drugs" and the anti-drug hysteria 
that followed, I was both surprised and encouraged to hear most of 
them had changed their stances when faced with new facts and personal 

This is relatively representative of the country at large. Given the 
legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, and a growing 
sentiment for legalization in California, the reduced stigma of 
marijuana has resulted in research no longer being considered taboo. 
In fact, according to an October Gallup poll, 58 percent of people in 
the United States now support the plant's legalization.

Which is why, given its status as a world-renowned medical research 
institution, UCLA should lobby the federal government to allow for 
the formation of a team at the university dedicated to understanding 
the hard science of marijuana's effects on the body.

The University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, 
housed at UC San Diego, has been conducting research about 
marijuana's potential medical impact on multiple sclerosis, spinal 
cord injuries and AIDS, but further spreading the effort to more 
campuses would inject multiple scientific perspectives into the 
research effort.

While the progressive viewpoint of the people I talked to was 
encouraging, most of them expressed a desire to understand exactly 
how the drug works on the body.

For example, some of the attendees were concerned about the 
addictiveness of the drug - according to the magazine Psychology 
Today, about 9 percent of regular users become seriously addicted - 
and the adverse health effects of the smoke.

The research is in its infancy, and with the movement toward 
legalization gaining more legitimacy, it benefits everyone to 
understand the costs and benefits of marijuana use.

There are hurdles, obviously, such as the cost and feasibility of 
expanding marijuana research.

There seems to be money available. The National Institute on Drug 
Abuse recently granted the University of Michigan $2.2 million in new 
research funding to explore the science behind medical marijuana, 
despite its status as a Schedule I controlled substance.

In addition, UCLA currently does have a medical marijuana research 
team, funded by federal money, but the research is focused primarily 
on the sociological effects of dispensaries on local communities.

As for the feasibility and necessity of this research, the facts 
speak for themselves.Legally, only 134 medical marijuana dispensaries 
are allowed to operate within Los Angeles' borders.However, the Los 
Angeles Times conservatively estimated at a certain point that there 
were more than 800 additional shops operating illegally.

That means there are enough people in the market for marijuana and 
also a large supply of diverse individuals that can be used for test trials.

Adding to the growing momentum behind moderate recreational use and 
the relatively small amount of scientific information available, it 
would serve as a huge boon to the community to have a prestigious 
local institution involved that could better inform people about the 
consequences of their actions.

It's evident that weed is here to stay.

Instead of asking what we can do to prevent that reality, it's more 
important now to accept the shifting status quo and look toward ways 
to better inform users about the potential effects of the drug on their bodies.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom