The illegal status of cannabis under most jurisdictions causes
negative consequences for many with regard to their career,
personal and professional relationships, suspension of driving
privilege, and health.
In a book chapter on side effects of the medical use of cannabis,
"Natural cannabis products are illegal in most countries.
For the most part, no legal distinction is made between recreational
and medical use.
If single cannabinoids (dronabinol, nabilone) that may be
legally prescribed in some countries are not available, too
expensive, or ineffective, therapeutic use of cannabis may
provoke various repercussions for the patient who employs
it. These include: criminal prosecution or fear thereof, paying
a high price for an illegal drug, exposure to possible contamination,
use of an unknown concentration of THC with possible variability
in dosing, limited forms of administration, and even fear
of discussion with the patient’s family doctor. The
illegality of cannabis presents various obstacles to clinical
research" (Grotenhermen 2002).
Australian researchers at the National Centre for Research
into the Prevention of Drug Abuse investigated the consequences
of the kind of penalty on use and effects (Australian Associated
Press of 3 August 1999).
The study compared 68 cannabis users in South Australia (SA)
who received expiation notices for minor cannabis offenses
to 68 West Australian (WA) users who received criminal convictions
for minor offences. Researcher Simon Lenton said a key finding
of the survey was that about 90 per cent from both groups
said they had not reduced their use of the drug, despite the
different penalties. Comparisons of the South Australian and
West Australian users showed that WA's criminal convictions
system had a far greater negative impact on the lives of cannabis
offenders. A third of the WA group, compared to two per cent
of the SA group, said they had been dismissed from a job,
could not find a new one, or stopped applying for jobs because
of their conviction. One fifth of the WA group, compared to
one twentieth of the SA group, said they had suffered a relationship
problem, and 16 percent of the WA group said that they had
been forced to move house or lost accommodation because of
their conviction. In an interview, Lenton said while most
attention focused on health problems associated with cannabis,
"we also need to look at what the effects are of the
legal system which we set-up to deal with cannabis use"
(Australian Associated Press, August 3, 1999).
At this time, U.S. law on the federal level and in most states
treats the medicinal and recreational uses of marijuana and
related acquisition alike. Thus, the legal situation of medical
cannabis users is subject to the same negative implications
of law enforcement and penalization.
Grotenhermen F. Review of unwanted actions of Cannabis and
THC. In: Grotenhermen F, Russo E, editors. Cannabis and cannabinoids.
Pharmacology, toxicology, and therapeutic potential. Binghamton
NY: Haworth Press, 2002: 233-48.