The bottom line, critics say, is that the plant provides
more harm than benefit to consumers.
"There's no proof that marijuana has any influence on
pain," said Dr. Gabriel Nahas, New York University School of Medicine
professor and author of Marihuana and Medicine. "People claim it relieves
them, but it's not true - they remember feeling good when they took it
in the past and it becomes somewhat of a placebo.
" Even though the plant may provide a placebo effect,
Nahas claims marijuana is not nearly as innocent as the public may perceive
it to be.
According to Nahas, the drug can weaken an immune system
already compromised by diseases, including HIV and others. "Marijuana
can be damaging to the germ cells of man and the immunity cells," he said.
"There is massive evidence indicating there are certain conditions when
it should not be used."
Herrick, who has worked as a medical marijuana activist
throughout California, disagrees with the narcotic's naysayers. "I don't
see how providing cannabis to a terminally ill cancer patient is going
to make that much of a difference, and it's going to allow him to die
with dignity," said Herrick.
As part of the now-defunct Orange County Cannabis Co-Op,
Herrick helped to provide the drug to hundreds of patients with illnesses
ranging from depression to cancer and advanced cases of AIDS. "I've seen
it control the nausea, increase the appetite and reduce the pain," he
University of Iowa professor Robert Block, PhD, has done
his own research on the adverse side effects of marijuana. As far back
as 1993, Block discovered cognitive impairments from daily marijuana users
who ingested the drug for at least two years, he said.
When it comes to medical use, however, Block's research
hasn't turned him off to the plant's possibilities. "Most drugs that people
take have some side effects - it's a matter of balancing the negative
effects with the therapeutic effects," he said.