NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — Legalizing marijuana usage for medical purposes is a subject that has been debated for decades with mixed results. The federal government refuses to do so but 20 states and Washington D.C. have. Most states have refused. Some, Colorado and Washington state, have gone further and legalized it for recreational purposes. The debate about legalizing for medical purposes is currently raging in the state of Pennsylvania.

There are some, such as former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who think legalizing marijuana for medical purposes is just a ploy. The ultimate goal, such people believe, is to make marijuana legal across the board. It is a way to get a foot in the door legally speaking. Once legal for medical purposes recreational legalization is not far off.

The irony of the medical legalization argument is that the medical community rejects legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society for Addiction Medicine and many other professional medical organizations want more study to be completed before consenting to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Despite this opposition, some states have already legalized it and more legislators have introduced legalization bills in their states. The reasons for this are varied. There is a lot of money to be made in legalizing marijuana. Some politicians have been attracted to or were the beneficiaries of donations from those who profit from marijuana legalization. Other lawmakers have bought into the idea of tax money going into government coffers from regulated marijuana. Some were, and are, convinced that the state could actually save tax money because law enforcement efforts would be reduced by legal marijuana. Other legislators believe foreign medical studies indicating a medical benefit or they believe the anecdotal information of the benefits of medicinal marijuana while ignoring the medical community.

The medical community is steadfast in its opposition. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the AMA and others in the medical establishment, point out that the potential harm of marijuana use is not considered by legalization advocates. They only extol the benefits. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must assess the downside of any drug when deciding whether to approve a medicine. FDA approval is important because under Federal law, only FDA-approved medications are legal to prescribe.

NIDA examined the issue of medical marijuana. It states that many of marijuana's effects stem from delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC. This attaches to specialized proteins, called cannabinoid receptors (CBRs), to which the body's natural chemicals (e.g., anandamide) normally bind.

According to the NIDA, CBRs are part of a system that is a factor in normal brain development and function. They influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination and sensory and time perception. When someone smokes marijuana, THC stimulates these CBRs artificially, disrupting the natural cannabinoids function. The NIDA states that, "an overstimulation of these receptors in key brain areas produces the marijuana 'high' as well as its other effects on mental processes."