The glitch in that step has to do with taxation, Aldworth said. “In section 280E of a 1980s tax code, it states that you cannot take small business deductions from your taxes for activities involved in trafficking illegal products. While other businesses are taxed between 15 and 30 percent, marijuana providers are punished with federal tax rates that reach up to 80 percent.”
That means that even if a state legalizes marijuana, businesses are still subject to stringent federal tax guidelines.
“It’s important for the public to understand that as we shift from a culture that keeps marijuana underground and forces it in the hands of cartels and criminals, to a culture that allows patients to access their medicine safely in a secure facility, that these business owners are really participating in important ways in their state economies,” Aldworth said.
Still, there are detractors in high places who base their objections to legalization on scientific evidence.
“Studies show that 9 percent of those exposed to marijuana will become addicted,” said Nora Valkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. “If you are less than 17 or 18 years old, that goes up to 16 percent.”
Even for the majority of teens who do not become addicted, Valkow says there are additional known health risks.
“My main concern with marijuana is the potential detrimental effects it can have on the developing human brain,” she said. “Exposure in adolescence can ultimately affect cognitive performance, mood and motivation and drive. Marijuana can also have adverse effects on adults. If you are taking it with a high content of THC it can make you psychotic.”
As for legalizing marijuana for the treatment of pain, Valkow says the idea is premature.
“We have to learn from history,” she said. “There’s a lot of excitement that the drug is benign and can be a panacea for a wide variety of diseases. But research much be done. The concept of legalizing marijuana for pain is one that would need randomized clinical trials that evaluate what concentrations of the active ingredients of marijuana are necessary for the optimal control of pain. What are the doses? None of that work has been done.”