Smoke and Mirrors: Is Marijuana Actually Medicinal?

John Watson


April 18, 2018

In This Article

Lack of Trials Keeps Marijuana's True Value a Mystery

As the map of where marijuana is available continues to expand, it can be easy to overlook that it is still classified by the US Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I substance. This has severely limited how the research community can access and test it in various medical conditions.

The dearth of randomized controlled trials on medical marijuana has kept its true value a mystery. That this should continue to occur when marijuana has been easier to access than ever before will undoubtedly serve as frustration to clinicians whose patients use it, medicinally or recreationally.

Cannabis' efficacy in treating cancer-related symptoms, chronic pain, and MS should alleviate concerns that clinicians were used simply as unwitting pawns in the campaign for legalization. Conversely, the string of indications where medical cannabis, at best, failed to show a benefit and, at worst, was associated with significant morbidity should serve as a counterpoint to the rose-colored outlook put forth by some of its more optimistic advocates.

Nonetheless, in decriminalizing marijuana, this substance that has been used for medical treatments throughout recorded history may finally come out of the shadows and under the scrutinizing gaze of clinical researchers. How it performs in that setting will certainly be worthy of our attention.

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