Cannabis advocates in America are faced with a tough decision, according to some folks: Is marijuana medicine or a recreational drug? For many of us, it’s both. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of people who don’t think it’s suitable for medical or recreational use. Hell, the Attorney General of Colorado called medical marijuana in our state “a joke” in an interview with NPR. What’s a responsible smoker to do?

Let’s start by looking at the medical side of the plant. Some claim that pot has no medical efficacy whatsoever. Those who are against marijuana as medicine must not have heard about all the studies done proving that it actually has wild health benefits. What have we found in studying the Schedule I drug? A new study suggests that THC might slow the progression of HIV. Other studies show that CBD, another cannabinoid, can work with THC to slow or stop the spread of cancer cells. Cannabinoids have also been shown to control symptoms of Lou Gehrig Disease and multiple sclerosis, have positive effects on Alzheimer’s patients, and promote the destruction of brain cancer cells.

Wait a second. I thought marijuana had no health benefits? Then again, if THC was bad for us, pharmaceutical companies would have no use for it, right? Right. That’s why Big Pharma is lobbying the DEA to allow them to perform research on THC to develop pills based on the cannabinoid–much like Marinol, a synthetic THC pill currently on the market. Never mind that the DEA won’t let independent groups study the plant to compete with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Regardless, the fact that pharmaceutical companies want to cash in on the medical marijuana craze should be counted that it likely has some medicinal efficacy.

So what’s all this buzz about cannabis not being medicine? The number one argument against smoking medical marijuana, and probably the only one that holds any ground, is that it’s harmful to the throat and lungs. You know, kind of like smoking anything is bad for you. This problem can be alleviated with medibles, tinctures, vaporizers, and other non-smoking forms of bud. The only thing that leaves against medical marijuana is the fact that the federal government outlaws it. Patients around the world are made into criminals simply because they choose an alternative to pills.

That’s partially why so many people want to totally legalize cannabis. People deserve to use pot as medicine if they want to, but the DEA keeps getting in the way. Oh, and there’s also the issue of recreational use, because keeping this fight simple is simply impossible. Anti-prohibition activists often support the legalization of cannabis for recreational use and propose it be treated like alcohol. This view has prompted some to ask the question: “Is it medicine or not?”

And so the dilemma arises. For advocates of both the medical and recreational use of pot, the answer is pretty clear. Yes, of course it’s medicine–look at all the studies showing its benefits. But it’s also a fun and harmless recreational drug–unlike, say, alcohol, the most popular (legal) recreational drug in the country. Part of what makes cannabis legalization such a volatile topic is that it makes great medicine for millions of patients, but it can also be used for harmless entertainment.

Prohibition supporters answer this argument either by asking cannabis advocates to “make up their minds” or by asking how we can legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational use. I’ll let those waging the war figure out the social implications of having both uses available to responsible adults, because the legal question is a lot easier.

One proposed method of separating recreational and medical marijuana is setting up two systems. One for medical, which would be regulated essentially as it is now. Patients would be charged less and would not pay taxes. To prevent non-patients from taking advantage of this, guidelines for getting a medical marijuana license would have to be much stricter than they are now. Meanwhile, recreational use would be regulated much like alcohol. It would be taxed and only available to adults of a certain age–say 21–at specific locations–like liquor stores, but for pot.

This isn’t the only solution, of course, but it’s the best one I’ve heard and it’s one that I personally agree with. Whether or not you like this system, it proves that medical and recreational uses of cannabis can coexist in our current legal system. And that’s something every pot smoker, patient or not, can jump for joy over–or at least applaud, if they don’t want to get up from the couch.

Pass the potato chips and let’s keep moving forward with our legalization efforts.

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