The current wave of marijuana legalization sweeping the nation is a reflection and result of a decades-old culture war that has pitted cannabis advocates and patients against prohibitionists and those who support the war on drugs.
Critics and cynics who either question or deny the efficacy of the kind herb often point to the fact that little medical research and few supporting statements from reputable organizations are available to support legalization.
All mammals have very similar endocannabinoid systems. Thus, research that proves the value of cannabis in fighting diseases like cancer or HIV/AIDS in creatures such as rats or monkeys is valid in considerations of the effects on humans (and a clear reason to begin human trials).
What Does the Government Say?
However, what does the government say about the medical efficacy of cannabis? Despite the fact that marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, which legally defines it at the federal level as a dangerous substance holding no medicinal potential whatsoever, what are various government agencies saying about the potential health benefits of marijuana?
The following excerpts are derived from three reports provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). They provide an idea of the more progressive areas of the federal government that are at least discussing medical marijuana, attempting to educate voters, and calling for further research.
NIDA’s DrugFacts: Is Marijuana Medicine?
While not nearly as comprehensive as the NCI report quoted below, this website is fairly informative, if not overly supportive of the need for further research.
“Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses or symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes.”
“CBD is a cannabinoid that does not affect the mind or behavior. It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures, and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions.”
“Recent animal studies have shown that marijuana extracts may help kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others.”
“One cell culture study suggests that purified extracts from whole-plant marijuana can slow the growth of cancer cells from one of the most serious types of brain tumors.”
“Research in mice showed that treatment with purified extracts of THC and CBD, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.”
FDA and Marijuana: Questions and Answers
This FDA report is neutral but often prohibitionists in its presentation of the topic. It sometimes reads as if it was written by lawyers.
“The FDA is aware that marijuana or marijuana-derived products are being used for a number of medical conditions including, for example, AIDS wasting, epilepsy, neuropathic pain, treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and cancer and chemotherapy-induced nausea.”
“Study of marijuana in clinical trial settings is needed to assess the safety and effectiveness of marijuana for medical use.”
“The FDA believes that scientifically valid research conducted under an IND application is the best way to determine what patients could benefit from the use of drugs derived from marijuana.”
NCI: Cannabis and Cannabinoids
The NCI webpage is the most informative and supportive in its recognition of the medical efficacy of cannabis for diseases like cancer. The report is one that should be read by anyone who consumes cannabis. It provides a robust history of the medical applications of marijuana, as well as a very good review of the major studies to date.
“Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.”
“Cannabinoids may have benefits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects.”
“The potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep.”
“One study in mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors.”
“Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis invasion and metastasis.”
“A study of the effect of CBD on programmed cell death in breast cancer cell lines found that CBD induced programmed cell death.”
“Cannabis use was associated with a 45 percent reduction in bladder cancer incidence.”
“In a trial of a sublingual spray, a cannabis-based mixture was able to improve sleep quality.”