Medical Marijuana

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Medical Marijuana


In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) prepared a report at the request of the federal government on the scientific evidence regarding medical uses for marijuana. The conclusion was that there was scientific evidence for the potential therapeutic value of THC for pain relief, nausea and vomiting control, and appetite stimulation. However, the IOM report also indicated that smoking marijuana was an imprecise method to deliver THC and produced harmful substances through smoking. The report also discussed the psychological effects of marijuana, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria. It was determined that these psychological effects can influence the therapeutic effects in potentially beneficial or harmful ways. For example, some older patients reported that the psychological effects were disturbing. For patients with AIDS wasting syndrome, the combination of appetite stimulation with the psychological effects of anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria could be beneficial.

Table Of Content


Contemporary Debate6

U.S. Legislation10

Social Movements, Global Attitudes12

Major Effects13

Acute Physical and Psychological Effects13

Physical Effects of Chronic Use15

Psychological Effects of Chronic Use16




Medical Marijuana


Medical marijuana (cannabis sativa) refers to the medically controlled use of marijuana or tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) by patients seeking a means to address medical problems including nausea, vomiting, weight loss, multiple sclerosis, asthma, inflammation, glaucoma, poor appetite, spasticity, chronic pain, and acute pain. There is a consensus that marijuana's medical use developed first in China, spreading to India, Rome, and Greece by the 1st century and eventually reaching Europe and Africa. The use of marijuana as medicine finally spread to the European colonies in North America sometime in the 18th century.(Fisher,2006)

Thus, the use of medically controlled marijuana in the United States predates the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, which rendered cannabis illegal even with a physician's prescription. Moral crusades condemning the use of marijuana for any purpose prior to the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act and widespread illegal use of marijuana since the passage ofthat law contributes to the contemporary controversy over developing clinical studies to assess the efficacy of medical treatments using marijuana. Although a few states did enact legislation (primarily in the 1970s and 1980s) that allows physicians to prescribe marijuana, federal law prohibiting this practice prevents physicians from prescribing marijuana as medication. Currently, the federal government of the United States does not recognize marijuana as serving any legitimate medical function. However, some synthetic cannabinoids, for example, dronabinol, fall into the Schedule III drug category. (Fisher,2006) These synthetic cannabinoids mimic some of marijuana's medical effects while costing considerably more. However, because they have a standardized dosage, regulators consider these to have a low potential for abuse.

The contemporary debate over medical marijuana consists of two opposing arguments. One side of the debate suggests that medical marijuana is unnecessary because existing drugs address all conditions that medical marijuana may ameliorate. Opponents suggest that medical marijuana is more effective and less expensive than existing legal drugs. Although in the United States medical marijuana legislation is limited to compassionate use laws in approximately 13 states, global legislation (and attitudes) toward both marijuana ...
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