Running head: IS MARIJUANA USE SAFE? 1
IS MARIJUANA USE SAFE? 6
Is Marijuana Use Safe? Comment by Foster, Christopher: Begin with a title page, formatted according to APA standards
Dr. Christopher Foster
PHI103: Informal Logic
Modeled example for the final paper assignment
In recent years, many states have voted to legalize marijuana, both for medical and recreational uses, with other states possibly following suit in the future (Sanders, 2018). However, federal law still prohibits the use or sale of marijuana in the United States. With the recent decision by the Justice department to crack down on marijuana distribution in states with legalized marijuana (Johnson, 2018), the question returns of whether those federal laws have real medical science on their side, or whether they are relics of the politics of a bygone era (Ripley, 2017). This paper will begin to explore the specific question of whether marijuana use is harmful to health. It will present a strong argument that marijuana is relatively safe and a strong argument that it is unacceptably dangerous. This will be followed by an analysis of the merits of reasoning and support provided by each. Comment by Foster, Christopher: A good intro paragraph should close with a preview of that the paper will accomplish.
Argument that Marijuana Use is Safe Comment by Foster, Christopher: It is good to have clear section headings, showing your instructor exactly where you accomplish each of the main elements of the assignment instructions.
Premise 1: Many studies have been done on the safety of marijuana use, and pooling their data creates a large and reliable data set from which to determine the effects of marijuana usage (Grant, Gonzales, Carey, Natarajan, & Wolfson, 2003). Comment by Foster, Christopher: The clearest way to express an argument is by putting it into standard form, with each premise clearly labeled and listed above the conclusion. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Though the premises and conclusion of your argument are in your own words, specific sources of information need to be cited.
Premise 2: Pooling the data from studies on the effects of marijuana usage shows no significant cognitive impairment in reaction time, attention, language, executive function, perceptual function, and motor skills in marijuana users (2003).
Premise 3: Meta-data showed minor cognitive impairment from long term marijuana only in the areas of learning and memory, but these were minor and can be minimized (e.g., in a medical context) (2003).
Premise 5: If a substance has beneficial uses that outweigh its harms then its use is acceptably safe. Comment by Foster, Christopher: This premise provides a link to the conclusion. It makes it so that if the above conditions are met, then the conclusion follows.
Conclusion: Marijuana use is acceptably safe. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The premises and conclusion of your arguments for this paper are supposed to be in your own words. Based on your research, you are presenting the best reasoning that you can on each side. Any words that are not your own need to be put in quotation marks and the source should be cited.
Support for the Argument that Marijuana is Safe Comment by Foster, Christopher: The best section headings are as clear as possible about what will be covered in that section.
A giant meta-study pooled data from many research studies of the effects of marijuana use and determined that marijuana use did not result in significant change in performance in six of eight cognitive areas (Grant et al., 2003). Because the study considered all relevant research studies and had a large data pool, these results can be considered reliable. Thus, there is substantial support for the first two premises of the argument. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The point of this section is to demonstrate that the premises of your argument are true. This can involve citing the sources that you used in your previous paper(s) and/or adding new supporting sources. For your argument to be good, there must be good support for its premises.
The two areas in which there was a decrease in function, learning and memory, showed relatively minor effects, which could be mitigated, for example, in medical contexts. For example, the declines were the result of long term and/or recent use of marijuana. Casual users or medical users may not experience even those minor declines in performance (Grant et al., 2003).
There are many documented medical benefits from marijuana use, including for nausea, AIDS, chemotherapy, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, MS, and Huntington’s disease. The risks of harm from the use of a potentially addictive drug can be mitigated with proper precautions from a physician (Wetterau, 2015).
The fifth premise is difficult to prove specifically because of different possible interpretations of what it means for something to be ‘acceptably’ safe. However, various academic articles support the idea that marijuana’s level of risk is within acceptable limits. Some argue, for example, that it is safer than alcohol and even some foods (Americans for Safe Access, 2018), so if those substances are considered safe enough to be legal, then perhaps marijuana should be too.
Furthermore, one can weigh the harms of its use against the harms of its criminalization. One author, for example, reasons, “Given that marijuana’s harms appear to be relatively small, though, advocates argue that, even if legalization leads to more pot use, it’s worth the benefit of reducing incarceration and crippling violent drug cartels financed in part by revenue from illicit weed sales” (Lopez, 2018). Therefore, one can reason, its use is safe relative to the harms of its prohibition, and therefore that constitutes an acceptable level of risk. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Since the final premise’s truth is partly semantic in nature, I am supporting it with reasoning that justifies the relevant concept of ‘acceptable’ risk. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Now all of the premises have been supported with a combination of research and reasoning.
Argument that Marijuana Use is Unsafe Comment by Foster, Christopher: One of the goals of a critical thinker is to make sure to understand the reasoning on all sides of a question as well as possible. Therefore, it is essential to present the strongest reasoning that we can find/think of in support of both sides of our question.
Premise 2: Marijuana use causes long term negative effects on physical and mental health (Feeney & Kampman, 2016). Comment by Foster, Christopher: These premises summarize much of your research in your own words.
Premise 5: It is unsafe to use substances that are addictive and that have many negative effects. Comment by Foster, Christopher: This premise provides a link from the points made in the first premises to the language of the conclusion.
Conclusion: It is unsafe to use Marijuana.
Support for the Argument that Marijuana is Unsafe
The first four premises of the argument are supported by studies indicating each of the effects in question. The degree to which these effects depend upon the quantity and duration of use, along with the age of the user and recentness of use is still an open question. However, the multiple studies cited do seem to support strongly the idea that the use of this substance can cause lasting harm. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Word count limits (and common sense) indicate that it is not always necessary to go into depth about each premise separately, but one can support more than one premise at a time like this, or one can focus one’s attention on the most important or controversial premises.
The fifth premise links the facts given in the first four premises to the language of the conclusion. It shows that any substance that has the properties demonstrated in the first premises will qualify as unsafe, thus demonstrating the truth of the conclusion. Furthermore, the fifth premise makes a substantial point that weighs against even medical uses of the product. Though the consequences of strictly medical uses may be relatively minor, if a product is addictive and has harmful consequences, then users are likely to continue to use it beyond its medicinal value, resulting in long term harms (Wetterau, 2015). Comment by Foster, Christopher: This paragraph puts extra focus on a key premise, showing why it is important for supporting the conclusion and for its implications beyond the argument itself.
The fact that there have been demonstrated risks associated with the use of marijuana indicates that researchers should caution against the legalization of the product, especially since its legalization could to lead to greater social acceptability and more widespread use, especially among teens. Seen in this light, these harms become quite significant and suggestion strong caution against the legalization and use of the substance. Comment by Foster, Christopher: As noted, the goal is to support each side as strongly as possible prior to the analysis.
Analysis of the Reasoning on Both Sides
As noted, both arguments have premises that are supported by substantial scholarly research. Both arguments additionally provide strong support for the truth of their conclusions. Each even includes a premise that links the factual claims made in the previous premises to the specific judgment made by the conclusion, resulting in powerful support for the truth of each conclusion. However, their conclusions make opposite points, resulting in an apparent contradiction. There is a good question, therefore, of how to determine which of these conclusions is most likely to be true.
There are several factors that can be used to explain this strong evidence for opposite conclusions. One is that authors, even authors of scholarly meta-studies, are frequently going to put more focus on studies whose results tend to support the conclusions that they personally support. Furthermore, each study will focus on factors that strengthen the case for its preferred side. For example, a scholar whose research supports the use of marijuana might focus on mitigating factors such as the fact that dosages can be carefully controlled in a medical setting. Researchers on the side of the opposition, on the other hand, may emphasize that addicted users are likely to use the substance in doses well beyond those recommended by physicians. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The purpose of this section is to have a substantive discussion about the reasoning on both sides of the issue. This example goes beyond merely addressing a list of questions and focuses on deeper issues surrounding the strength of reasoning in the relevant sources. Comment by Foster, Christopher: Specific examples can help to clarify and strengthen key points.
Given the fact that even scholars can approach such issues from biased points of view, it is difficult to arrive at one and only one ‘objective fact’ about whether marijuana use is acceptably safe or unacceptably dangerous. However, study of scholarly sources on both sides of this issue allows critical thinkers to be more aware of the types of risks and benefits and to be able to weigh the concerns for and against the use of the substance as objectively as one can. Use of non-scholarly sources, by contrast, can lead one to partisan advocacy in which one is not as objectively aware of the substantive considerations on both sides of the question.
Having studies both sides of this question, my own evaluation of the research indicates that long term marijuana use, or use at a young age, can have deleterious health consequences. However, use by adults in the limited context of medical application can have benefits that render the risks acceptable (Grant et al., 2003). Furthermore, in a medical setting, the use is typically controlled, temporary, and supervised by a physician. Therefore, the level of risks in these contexts, especially when contrasted with those of many other legal prescription drugs, may fall within an acceptable range. Comment by Foster, Christopher: The point of this assignment is not to ‘take sides’ but rather to critically examine the best reasoning on more than one side. However, analysis of which conclusion is most strongly supported by the evidence is appropriate here.
It is common for people to be wedded to a position and to seek evidence only to support their side. However, in pursuit of truth, critical thinkers make a point of understanding the best arguments on all sides of important questions. This allows them to be more informed and also more fair-minded, open to changing their views to whichever position most aligns with the best evidence.
Having researched the topic of marijuana use, I have found strong support for contrasting positions. On the one hand, there appears to be strong evidence for some potential harms associated with long term use of the substance. On the other hand, when it comes to medical applications, which tend to be short term and in which there are real medical benefits, these risks may fall within acceptable limits. Comment by Foster, Christopher: A simple concluding paragraph summarizes what has been learned and reaffirms key conclusions.
Americans for Safe Access (2018). Cannabis safety. Retrieved from http://www.safeaccessnow.org/cannabis_safety Comment by Foster, Christopher: Use APA formatting for all references.
Feeney, K. E., & Kampman, K. M. (2016). Adverse effects of marijuana use. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(2), 174-178. https://doi.org/10.1080/00243639.2016.1175707
Grant, I., Gonzales, R., Carey, C. L., Natarajan, L., & Wolfson, T. (2003). Non-acute (residual) neurocognitive effects of cannabis use: A meta-analytic study. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 9(5), 679-689. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617703950016
Lopez, G. (2018). Marijuana is a relatively safe drug—with some risks. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/cards/marijuana-legalization/health-effects-marijuana
Neavyn, M. J., Blohm, E., Babu, K. M., & Bird, S. B. (2014). Medical marijuana and driving: A review. Journal of Medical Toxicology 10(3), 269-279. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13181-014-0393-4
Palamar, J. J., Fenstermaker, M., Kamboukos, D., Ompad, D. C., Cleland, C. M., & Weitzman, M. (2014). Adverse psychosocial outcomes associated with drug use among US high school seniors: A comparison of alcohol and marijuana. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 40(6), 438-446. https://doi.org/10.3109/00952990.2014.943371
Ripley, E. (2017, December 20). Why is marijuana illegal? A look at the history of MJ in America. Retrieved from https://news.medicalmarijuanainc.com/the-road-to-prohibition-why-did-america-make-marijuana-illegal-in-the-first-place/
Volkow, N. D., Baler, R. D., Compton, W. M., & Weiss, S. R. B. (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. New England Journal of Medicine, 370, 2219-2227. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1402309
Wetterau, N. (2015). Medical marijuana—Can we do no harm? Family Doctor: A Journal of the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, 3(3), 16-20. Retrieved from http://www.nysafp.org/News/Family-Doctor-A-Journal-for-the-NYSAFP