November 11th, 2009
02:06 PM ET

The changing debate over medical marijuana

By Stephanie Smith
CNN Medical Producer

The national conversation about medical marijuana - in particular smoked marijuana - is complex and often polarizing.

I liken it to having a conversation with my father-in-law about politics/race/religion/poverty/health care – you name it. We start off meaning to have dignified conversation, but we inevitably spiral into growling matches peppered with words like, “those liberals…” and “c’mon, you’re smarter than that…” or “that’s crazy! That’s insane.” In reality, we are not so far apart on the issues, but somehow we can muddy the conversation so that it seems like we are.

The medical marijuana debate has been historically cast in equally polarizing terms: Groups are either for or against legalizing it.

That is what makes a subtle, nuanced move by the American Medical Association at a board meeting on Tuesday such a remarkable twist in the dialogue. The AMA shifted a 72-year-old policy about smoked marijuana, acknowledging that there could be some medical benefits, and urging reconsideration of the drug’s Schedule I status (Schedule I is a drug of abuse with “no accepted medical use.” Heroin and ecstasy are also Schedule I).

The AMA’s new policy language suggests that “marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines.”

What that means is that marijuana should be reconsidered as a Schedule I drug so that wider studies can be conducted that may establish that it is worthy of prescription drug status.

The organization is quick to add that it is by no means endorsing state-based cannabis programs or legalization. It also does not go as far as to say there is evidence that cannabis meets the rigorous standards met by prescription drugs on the market now – yet.

But that “yet” is key. What the new policy - and a forthcoming study - concede is that several short-term trials have shown that smoked cannabis is effective to treat neuropathy (nerve pain) in patients with HIV and hepatitic C. It is also effective, again, in a small number of trials, for stimulating appetite for people on chemotherapy; it may also be useful for patients with multiple sclerosis, to ameliorate pain and spasms.

The idea behind this policy shift is to widen the berth of studies about smoked marijuana, and to conduct them in a controlled manner, just as is done with prescription drugs, so that the debate can quiet down and give way to scientific evidence.

Now if only I could quiet down those debates with my father-in-law.

What do you think about the AMA’s new position on medical marijuana? Do you agree that it should be taken off of Schedule I status to make way for more studies in this area?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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soundoff (317 Responses)
  1. Kraig Rasool

    The AMA in my opinion has done a good thing by making room for more detailed studying of medical marijuana...although Im not a
    person who deals with smoke of any kind, my lungs carry no entry signs. I do feel that those who have serious health issues and benefit
    greatly by using medical marijuana should continue to rally those
    who make the rules. If i were in renlenting pain and knew of a relief
    I would be first in line to insert new regulations so that i would not
    suffer. It is an ongoing battle because of fear....some feel that recreational users would increase and then law enforcement would
    not be in control. However if all is viewed correctly and handled with
    the notion that it is only for those who are in need then I dont forsee any problems.

    November 12, 2009 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. K A

    Limited research has so far seen positive results.The THC
    keeps the immune system at a steady level,it seems to
    prevent Alzheimers,it helps in Arthritis,THC seems to attack
    cancer cells but doesn's bother normal cells.Does much
    more need to be said???

    November 12, 2009 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Hal

    This is a step in the right direction, but at the end of the day, legalization of marijuana should not be settled on its medical value. We don't require the same for alcohol or cigarettes, both which are arguably much more dangerous to individuals and society as a whole and have established far less medical benefits.

    We spend billions of dollars a year on law enforcement, prosecution, and incarceration for simple marijuana usage. Meanwhile, in the US, we continue to see brutal murders, kidnappings, and child molestations committed every day. We would be better served by shifting the resources we use to enforce outdated marijuana laws and focusing them instead on real criminal activities.

    Because of the illegality of marijuana, billions more flow directly to hideous drug cartels. According to a CNN report earlier this year, 65-70% of the drug trade in Mexico is based on marijuana. Cutting off 70% of the revenues from illegal drug traffickers will do far more damage to them then the ineffective efforts of American and Mexican agencies.

    It is time for America to have a mature, thoughtful policy on medical and casual marijuana usage. Age limits, intoxication limits and home growing limits could be set just as they are for alcohol. There are far better ways to spend the billions now wasted on marijuana law enforcement and supporting illegal drug activities.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bones

    It's about time!!!! It's one of the more harmless drugs out there in terms of side effects yet it's classified along with drugs like heroin and crack both of which can kill you with a simple overdose. When's the last time someone OD'd on weed? They would die of smoke inahilation first. The simple fact that half of the states in the US already have laws that allow for medicinal use of marijuana should tell you that we really don't need to study it more. We just need to open our eyes. Marijuana has been the bullseye for our war against drugs for decades, by making movies (Reefer Madness) that show people going crazy after smoking it and by labelling it a gateway drug that leads to other drugs use. Both of which are prepostorous. The gov't has sponsored studies that were never published because they didn't provide the results they were looking for so they just swept them under the rug and pretended like the studies never took place. I find it refreshing that our adminstration now has taken a more common sensical approach with it. Stop wasting money jailing people for having small amounts in their possession and start openning their minds to the potential uses of it.

    The next step would be legalize it fully. Control and tax it.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Soumya

    I agree that scientific controlled experiments need to take place. This cannot continue to be a discussion based on what people "want". That's ridiculous; other drugs are not on statewide bills to be voted on!! A thorough investigation with FDA approval needs to occur before we decide whether it is a good idea or not. Marijuana should be treated as a possible medication not as a recreational drug.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. peter

    Yes, it does have great medical benefits! i have had surgury multiple times on my right bicep due to an injury that i received when i was in the military. i continues to alleviate pain. this isnt the only benefit ethier! there are many responsible/law abiding citizens that get incarcerated due to simple possesions. that is a watse of mine and your tax dollars! rapists, murderers, violent criminals should be arrested! not resonsible marijuana users. also making this legal (not just medically) will have great economic values! Feds will have a huge increase in revenue if it were to be taxed! it would also be ecofriendly as we can use hemp to make clothes, paper, rope, shoes, etc!!!!

    November 12, 2009 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jim

    I believe that people should educate themselves before making a decision. One needs to go back to the thirties, review the congressional records and see how and why cannabis (it was not called marijuana then) was made illegal.

    In my own research, the evidence for the medical uses of cannabis is overwhelming. Personal disclosure; I do not smoke pot. The evidence that we should legalize, tax and control cannabis like alcohol is likewise overwhelming. Why would we leave cannabis in the hands of organized crime (as it is in many cases) to make millions and to decide if our children have access or not? Ask any child; it is easier to procure cannabis than it is to get alcohol.

    It is very unusual for adults to become addicted to anything. Almost all addicts started using the substances as teenagers. Their brains are still fluid and are not ready for alcohol and drugs. Before anyone tries to tell me that prohibition works I say this; you tried it for 12 plus years with alcohol before you gave up and you been trying for 70 years with cannabis. Has the situation improved? No!!! More children than ever are smoking pot. Pot is NOT dangerous for adults but it can be for children.

    No system is perfect but legalization, taxation and control are far better than prohibition which......will NEVER work.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ian Brown

    How can Marijuana even be lumped in the same group as heroin. It is preposterous to think that it has no place in medicine. I fully support the AMA's decision to reconsider.

    Marijuana is safer than almost any prescription drug on the market. When is the last time you heard of someone over dosing on Marijuana. Never. I bet you know someone who has overdosed on a sleep aid, pain killer, anxiety med, or some other "Government approved drug". The only reason it is still illegal is because the government wants us hooked on their drugs and not our own.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. John

    I agree that marijuana should be taken off it's Sched I Status. This should and hopefully would stop SOME of these arguments. Plenty of research has been done for us to have gotten this far. Let's keep it up and learn as much as we can about this plant!

    November 12, 2009 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Chris

    It is silly to totally outlaw something that you have not studied. It takes me back to G.I. Joe, Knowing is half the battle.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Fnord-a-saurus Rex

    To me this should be a non issue. How many times do we hear about some drug being pulled off the market because of some horrible side effects. I dont think the AMA will ever endorse medical marijuana because of the drug company lobbies in Washington. If medical marijauna can do all the things people claim, it would put the drug companies out of business. I do think that there should be more testing done so the public can know what the benifets are. There are all sorts of claims about hash oil being able to cure cancer. It's time we find out for sure. As for the non medical uses, I'm all for that too. I live in L.A. county, it may as well be Amsterdam. No one I've met that has a script really has a medical reason. People like getting high. So what. If they beleive that smoking pot is helping them, then who are we to say different. It's just the placebo effect. Marijuana is an amazing plant with all sorts of uses and benefits, it's time we start exploring these options, and stop letting politics or misguided social stigmas hold us back.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. johnny american

    OF COURSE it should be legalized! Marijuana has never been shown to kill even 1 person from it's use. Compare that to cigarettes, which is legal, kills over 400,000 people a year & contains over 100 toxic chemicals. It's a clear decision in my book...

    November 12, 2009 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. cody jones

    I think that the government needs to go ahead and legalize medical marijuana. We have been dipping around the idea for years and it's time to put your foot in your mouth and legalize it. Everybody knows it isn't as harmful for you as cigarettes and alcohol. But yet nobody seems to care the health issue on these drugs but for some reason we feel the need to put marijuana under a microscope....

    November 12, 2009 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Robert Shoap

    I believe it should be legalized. It indeed, has proven to be effective in treating pain. The fact that they were "small" studies is just indicitive of the fact that our Government was more interested in arresting people than studying pot. It would be an embarrassment to them to find it useful in any context. There does not need to be a study as to the fact that pot makes a person want to eat. This is pure common knowledge. If the government wishes to make it a "prescription drug", that is simply a waste of taxpayer money. It is not any more dangerous than cigarettes or liquor and we need the funds spent trying to put pot smokers and pot dealers in jail on more serious issues.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. santurcehaze

    Any smoke in your lungs is noxious for your health. However, by removing the Schedule I classification we can study marihuana further and make solid, scientific determinations with regards to other means of consumption and their risks and benefits. Currently you can inhale vapor from marijuana leafs and retain similar effects to smoking, this could also serve a valid alternative for pain and spasm relief. Vapor is not nearly as noxious, and may even be healthy to induce vapor therapy using cannabinoids. It would be a perfect world if your doctor would supervise marijuana vapor therapy three times a week. Outstanding.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Robert Shankman

    It's about time that doctors and scientist's start speaking the truth instead of holding up the stance that congress and politicians want them to hold! legalize marijuana across the board , just regulate it like you do with alcohol and tobacco! the economy need's it and prohibition didn't work in the 30's and 40's and i doesn't work now!

    November 12, 2009 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Frank Martin

    The studies that support effectiveness of cannabinoids for chronic pain (and everything else) are hopelessly biased. Maybe getting a few double blinded studies done will clear the air, but I doubt it. Everyone I have ever encountered, who raved about about how much smoking pot helped their disease, was a pot smoker (and often a user of other drugs as well) before they got their disease and, in my opinion, was just using their disease as an excuse to continue their recreational drug use. That being said, I think we waste way too much money trying to control drug use; we will never stop it.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Fred

    There is no randomized, large scale, double blind studies either supporting or refuting cannabis' ability to improve, harm or be neutral towards virtually any disease state. The federal government stopped the research arm of cannabis by declaring it Schedule 1 – despite overwhelmingly well controlled studies proclaiming its safety. There are NO drugs that truly have NO therapeutic advantages. For crying out loud, we use a cardiac toxin (heart poison) to treat heart failure! We use rat poison (warfarin) to prevent blood clots and stroke. For the federal government to claim these known poison's are safe to use under medical scrutiny, but cannabis – which has been proven to be virtually impossible to overdose on – has no therapeutic benefit clearly reveals the role science plays in Washington when it comes to setting medical policy.

    November 12, 2009 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. NYPrincessTt

    The only thing that amazes me more than the developement of television commercials to advertise prescription drugs (I trust my doctor- if I need a prescription, he should tell me, not a 30 second commercial) is the littany of side effects that seem attached to each of these drugs, many of which sound worse than the affliction they are meant to treat. In a world where relief for dry eyes may be accompanied by runny or loose stool, stiff neck, temporary blindness, inability to sneeze, etc. etc., the side effects of medicinal marijuana will be a welcome relief. Imagine, a natural treatment for a multitude of symptoms whose side effects are limited to things like increased appetite, extreme relaxation, and proclivity to laugh hysterically. I fail to see the down side here.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jeff Dahlin

    I do agree that marijuana should be examined and studied by the AMA. After learning about the way in which marijuana was criminalized, I have serious doubts about the Schedule I status that the drug now carries. It seems as if that designation was based upon political motives and scare-tactic propaganda.

    I am also interested to hear about other ways that the drug can be ingested. Inhaling a combusted substance can't be good in any context, but other (edible, etc.) ways to reap the possible benefits of the drug might be less harmful. I have wondered why this specific issue hasn't been more widely examined.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. GW

    Finally. 72 years later? I dont know. Im hoping by the 73 year however, it will be reclassified as sch. 2 and grant any state the permission it requests for treated patients. Honestly legaliztion should be out of the question. but legalization fork medical reasons? absolutely.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bill

    I cannot debate the merits or lack there of for medical purposes and no one without a medical backround should. What I am an expert at is the problems we already have in our high schools and I see the marijuana problem getting worse if more people can access medical marajuana therefore I think it should stay as a Schedule 1 drug.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Katherine Jones

    This is way past due, in my opinion. Cannabis has been around a lot longer than the AMA and many individuals from all socioeconomic groups, as well as, differing cohorts attest to it's medical/recreational value. Prohibition of Cannabis has always been about political advantages afforded a few with governmental clout whose true agenda has always been to subjugate the poor and minority populations while lining the pockets of select corporate organizations. Prohibition of Cannabis has never been about protecting the health and well-being of society.
    Thanks to the dedicated and tireless efforts of the drug reform community and organizations such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the public is beginning to unravel the spurious amalgam of lies perpetuated throughout the decades about Cannabis. Hopefully, this marks a departure from the dark ages of Draconian drug policy and guides humanity toward a well-deserved Renaissance of logically, scientifically-based research where truth and the advancement of reason prevails.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Georgia Myers

    Absolutely the classification of Schedule I status should be changed! My mother has progressive MS and her leg spasms sometime are unbearable. If smoking a prescribed joint is what gets her through her already painful and difficult day, then what is the issue?? People who are sick deserve to feel better – even if it is temporary – and should be respected enough by people making these decisions to honor their needs at any given time.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Rick Odom

    I am a cancer survivor. I had my digestive system re-sectioned becuase from the removal of the cancer in my esophagus and stomach. I smoked marijuana with the blessing of my doctor. It was the one substance that relieved my nausea and helped me to acquire an appetite that I sorely needed.

    I think the laws that are in place are antiquated and were put in place by a Nixon administration for the purpose of carrying out Nixon's prejudice against the youth/hippies of his era.

    I think it is about time to start the research and trials for this drug so that others like me can have a more comfortable life and gain the relief and advantages that marijuana offers.

    November 12, 2009 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. tony

    i do think it should be taken off the schedule 1 status. it is effective in helping people with ms not only in decreasing the side effects from drugs they take but also in decreasing the symptoms of ms. it helps people with this disease greatly. it also helps in increasing appetite for people on kemo. it can also be used to help people with chronic pain and is much safer than the opium based alternative. it is much less addictive than the current pain drugs out there. i dont really understand how this can even be argued. the government needs to wake up to the reality that this medicinal plant is helping millions of people, and stop this prohibition.

    November 12, 2009 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Christine

    The government is medicating everybody for everything but they want to lock up or fine marijuana users. NOW they want to be able to be the only ones to monitor it for medical use!!!? Once again the government is trying to make money off users. I'm all for it being legalized, it's better than drinking but it should be able to be gotten by anyone over 18, sick or not.

    November 12, 2009 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. jason

    I agree with the AMA. Israel is already doing what the U.S. should be doing. Israel has the biggest research on medical marijuana in the world. Google Israel and medical marijauna research and see what they have to say about the subject

    November 12, 2009 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. david Mangham

    If science can rule the day and not religious beliefs then maybe studies can actually take place to determine the benefits, if any of Medical Marijuana.

    November 12, 2009 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ritchie

    If it has been proven that it can help, then a very limited number of people should have it. In California it is a joke, if you have a sore toe you can get it and as with all drugs there are serious side effects. If it is legalized, there must be very strict limits on who can get it and places that are dispensing it must be normal pharmacies just like other drugs.

    November 12, 2009 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. MatterofLiberty

    In its official response to the AMA’s recent call for a review of marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug (barring any medical use) under federal law, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy stated that it would defer to “the FDA’s judgment that the raw marijuana plant cannot meet the standards for identity, strength, quality, purity, packaging and labeling required of medicine.”

    While we’re not used to factual accuracy from ONDCP, in this case they’re wrong not once, but twice.

    First, there is absolutely no reason that plant medicines can’t be standardized and controlled for purity and potency. Indeed, the Netherlands has been doing just that for years, with medical marijuana distributed in Dutch pharmacies that is “of pharmaceutical quality and complies with the strictest requirements,” according to the Dutch government.

    Second, the FDA has never said that a natural plant product can’t be a medicine. Indeed the agency has a lengthy “Guidance for Industry: Botanical Drug Products,” specifically designed to aid developers of plant medicines. The document not only doesn’t rule out plants as medicines, it even states, “In the initial stage of clinical studies of a botanical drug, it is generally not necessary to identify the active constituents or other biological markers or to have a chemical identification and assay for a particular constituent or marker.” Given that the active components of marijuana are already well-known and extensively researched, marijuana is well ahead of where the FDA says plant products need to be to start the process of seeking FDA licensing.

    November 12, 2009 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Bill

    Does anybody see how the comments from the public are virtually ALL pro-marijuana? How is it everybody in the country wants it available except the law makers? Could it be the pharmaceutical companies don't want us to have free medicine instead of paying them $20/pill for their new wonder drug?
    Classifying marijuana the same as heroin is ludicrous and obviously silly to everybody. So, where is the opposition to legalization? Is there anybody other than a religious nut or a paid for politician in favor of keeping it illegal? What are they afraid of?
    We have forgotten what The Land of the Free means.

    November 12, 2009 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Mare

    I have MS and I know for a fact that Marijuana helps with my neuropathic pain. They outlawed Marijuana after the country was overrun with Mexicans in the 30's and made them look like the bad guy that was going to sell pot on every streetcorner in America.

    The war on drugs, including prohibition does not work. They could wipe out the national debt, pay for health care reform and a number of other initiatives if the legalized it, TAXED IT and sold it like cigarettes.

    The United States Government needs to wake up and at least conduct clinical trials. They might find they could help us sufferers more cheaply and cost effectively!

    November 12, 2009 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kevin

    I think anyone that has a legitimate reason to use marijuana should be able too. What's laughable is all the yahoos using the medical cards just so they can get high. It's these people that make these programs illigitimate and will screw everyone that actually can benefit from the drug. Just like cigarette smokers wondering why their rights are being taken away at the same time they blow smoke in someones face at a restraunt.

    November 12, 2009 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. dee

    Yeah, I have an issue with it. My son who was raised to know better smokes it. He is failing in college, he smokes cigarettes now too. He defends the weed like his life depends on it. All these medical pot sites know that they are a thinly covered veil for what they are really there for. We all know it's a big scam. All that cancer these people are so called getting relief from is probably cancer they got from smoking the stuff to begin with. It's a fact that one joint is worse and has more cancer toxin than a manufactured cigarette. How about good old Linda Macartney and her vegan lifestyle? She was well known to smoke the stuff and where is she? How about all the other 50 plus individuals who have been loaded most of their lives? They look great don't they? No medical problems at all right? I'm 50 and still get taken for 35 because I didn't abuse my body. My 54 year old brother smoked pot his whole life and he looks like he's 75 years old and by the way, we don't talk anymore because of all the family issues this caused. I don't know if any benefit if in fact there is any, would justify the pain and suffering this weed causes families. I can say I don't think it does. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    November 12, 2009 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Brad

    I'm a little surprised to read so many comments from people who clearly don't understand much about the various properties of marijuana. Marijuana contains a great many cannabinoids (well over 60), many of them may have medical benefits. The people who think that THC pills would be a simple solution, simply don't understand what is involved with a rather complex mixture of cannabinoids that effect someone who uses marijuana. CBD is another cannabinoid that has substantial medical benefits, and is the primary substance in marijuana that helps with nausea and inflammation. It is often thought to be the quantity as well as the ratio of CBD to THC that gives a specific strain of the plant it's unique effects. When the AMA says they want to study marijuana's medical potential, you can rest assured that their findings will inevitably be based on how the pharmaceutical industry can make the most money from cannabis based medicines, and not on what would best benefit the people who need help (that will just be a secondary result). Medical marijuana is a very beneficial treatment for many ailments, and should be used in it's natural form. The AMA will just be finding a way to ensure that giant corporate interests will be making huge profits from their research. Remember that marijuana is currently illegal to a large extent, because it is a huge threat to the alcohol and cotton industries. Perhaps the potential financial gains that would go along with reclassifying marijuana, are now perceived as too tempting to resist for the greedy corporations that own our government.

    November 13, 2009 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jay Peter

    I have glaucoma and have found marijuana to control it at a lower cost than the drug prescribed by my doctor, and with more benign side-effects. However, there are only a limited number of studies confirming its efficacy. I welcome serious research in this area.

    November 13, 2009 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Ameet

    The day it is OK for YOUR KID'S SCHOOL BUS DRIVER to light up a doobie after work is the day we can talk about legalizing marijuana. Until then, it is an idiotic proposition.

    November 13, 2009 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Stormy

    The most potent argument against the use of marijuana to treat medical disorders is that marijuana may cause the acceleration or aggravation of the very disorders it is being used to treat.

    Smoking marijuana regularly (a joint a day) can damage the cells in the bronchial passages which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms and decrease the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells. For patients with already weakened immune systems, this means an increase in the possibility of dangerous pulmonary infections, including pneumonia, which often proves fatal in AIDS patients.

    Studies further suggest that marijuana is a general "immunosuppressant" whose degenerative influence extends beyond the respiratory system. Regular smoking has been shown to materially affect the overall ability of the smoker�s body to defend itself against infection by weakening various natural immune mechanisms, including macrophages (a.k.a. "killer cells") and the all-important T-cells. Obviously, this suggests the conclusion, which is well-supported by scientific studies, that the use of marijuana as a medical therapy can and does have a very serious negative effect on patients with pre-existing immune deficits resulting from AIDS, organ transplantation, or cancer chemotherapy, the very conditions for which marijuana has most often been touted and suggested as a treatment. It has also been shown that marijuana use can accelerate the progression of HIV to full-blown AIDS and increase the occurrence of infections and Kaposi�s sarcoma. In addition, patients with weak immune systems will be even less able to defend themselves against the various respiratory cancers and conditions to which consistent marijuana use has been linked, and which are discussed briefly under "Respiratory Illnesses."

    The main respiratory consequences of smoking marijuana regularly (one joint a day) are pulmonary infections and respiratory cancer, whose connection to marijuana use has been strongly suggested but not conclusively proven. The effects also include chronic bronchitis, impairment in the function of the smaller air passages, inflammation of the lung, the development of potentially pre-cancerous abnormalities in the bronchial lining and lungs, and, as discussed, a reduction in the capabilities of many defensive mechanisms within the lungs.

    Marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke contain many of the same toxins, including one which has been identified as a key factor in the promotion of lung cancer. This toxin is found in the tar phase of both, and it should be noted that one joint has four times more tar than a cigarette, which means that the lungs are exposed four-fold to this toxin and others in the tar. It has been concretely established that smoking cigarettes promotes lung cancer (which causes more than 125,000 deaths in the US every year), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis and emphysema) and increased incidence of respiratory tract infections. This implies, but does not establish, that smoking marijuana may lead to some of the same results as smoking cigarettes. It is notable that several reports indicate an unexpectedly large proportion ofmarijuana users among cases of lung cancer and cancers of the oral cavity,pharynx, and larynx. Thus, it appears that the use of marijuana as a medicine has the potential to further harm an already ill patient in the same way that taking up regular cigarette smoking would, particularly in light of the fact that those patients for whom marijuana is recommended are already poorly equipped to fight off these infections and diseases.

    It has been suggested that marijuana is at the root of many mental disorders, including acute toxic psychosis, panic attacks (one of the very conditions it is being used experimentally to treat), flashbacks, delusions, depersonalization, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, and uncontrollable aggressiveness. Marijuana has long been known to trigger attacks of mental illness, such as bipolar (manic-depressive) psychosis and schizophrenia. This connection with mental illness should make health care providers for terminally ill patients and the patients themselves, who may already be suffering from some form of clinical depression, weigh very carefully the pros and cons of adopting a therapeutic course of marijuana.

    In the short term, marijuana use impairs perception, judgment, thinking, memory, and learning; memory defects may persist six weeks after last use. Mental disorders connected with marijuana use merit their own category in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV, published by the American Psychiatric Association. These include Cannabis Intoxication (consisting of impaired motor coordination, anxiety, impaired judgment, sensation of slowed time, social withdrawal, and often includes perceptual disturbances; Cannabis Intoxication Delirium (memory deficit, disorientation); Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Delusions; Cannabis Induced Psychotic Disorder, Hallucinations; and Cannabis Induced Anxiety Disorder.

    In addition, marijuana use has many indirect effects on health. Its effect on coordination, perception, and judgment means that it causes a number of accidents, vehicular and otherwise.

    November 13, 2009 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Irv. N

    I keep reading all of these negative responses and wonder why we continue to browbeat others who do not agree with our opinion. Obviously for whatever reason the Federal Government and certain state and local governments have decided that there is some benefit. Also the AMA which for 72 years has been against this very issue is saying, why not look, and investigate if this WEED can be potentially beneficial to people who experience bad side effects or in their own mind feel like they are getting some benefits from the use. Smoking, eating, vaporizing this plant seems like a mirror image of a placebo placed in a controlled drug study.
    I will not agree that the burning of anything and then ingesting the smoke is not good. To that end i know plenty of 80 year old smokers and plenty of 80 year old non smokers, I feel that it is more hereditary issues that cause degradation of life, including the chemicals that we inhale or ingest due to their being added to our food chain.

    November 14, 2009 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Lisa

    Those who point out "negative effects" on the lungs are not aware of the vaporizor. Those who point out negative psychological effects have not studied *medical* marijuana. It is quite different from "street" marijuana and does not have the same effects. All of this points to the need for futher research.

    The old arguments against smoking pot no longer apply with the new methods of adminstration and genetically-engineered strains.

    November 14, 2009 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Dustin

    Stormy, your linking of lung cancer and marijuana use is extremely misleading. I would like to point you in the direction of this Washington Post article:

    And dee, I have seen the same exact comment you just made – word for word, verbatim – on many other different forums and websites. I do not know why it spreads around the way it does – perhaps it's a technique prohibitionists are using (scare tactics..how surprising).

    So because I have read that same exact comment many, many times, you are phony and there is no credibility in your comment.

    November 14, 2009 at 16:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Trevor

    I have smoked since age 13, and now at age 24 I can not say that I regret it in any way. In fact, if I hadn't been a smoker who had aquired alot of insight over the years about all things cannabis, I would not have known to or had the know how to avail myself of the medicinal benifits of cannabis when Ehlers Danlos Syndrome began ruining my life with crippling agony in and around the neck and back.

    This genetic condition has progressed slowly most of my life, causing back pain and strange injuries that seemed to happen for no reason, but about 2-3 years ago the pain became unbearable and never yeilding. My body is now very prone to joint popping, grinding, dislocations, over extension...... The pain is so bad 24/7, that I could not live without strong pain medications. Cannabis makes my life possible to go on without euthenasia. I would have no tolerable quality of life and no future without cannabis.

    It drastically decreases my need for toxic, addictive drugs like opiates, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers, anxiety meds, anti depressants... and makes it possible for me to keep from vomiting up the medicines I do take or the food and drink I consume. It is the most effective pain reliver next to opiates, but lacks the addiction, the toxicity of opiates, and when used together they have maximum effect, while reducing the dosage needed for each. Cannabis helps me eat well, it helps me get what little sleep is possible for me, and it helps improve my attitude and coping immensly.

    Without Cannabis I would be at the mercy of doctors and the addictive poisons that they are alowed to offer patients. I would be in a constant state of unspeakable tourture from intense chrionic pain, nausea, addiction and sleep deprivation leading to suicidal depression.

    I will fight this drug war against the system until it kills me or we kill it. I don't have a choice. I am fighting for my life and the lives of all those imprisoned and otherwised victimized by this government's insanity.

    November 14, 2009 at 16:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Trevor

    I'd also like to add that I have the highest dose perscription for dronabinol (generic for marinol) THC pills. They are so weak in the 1 activ compound, I find even eating the whole months supply in one sitting to still be useless as medicine. At $800 a month, its an condemnable fraud against the chronically ill.

    legalize it already DAMNIT!!!!!!

    November 14, 2009 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. MatterofLiberty

    Organic & Pesticide free thats how we want our medicine to be!
    Lets not coerce folks to use Addictive Opiate based painkillers that have a chance for LETHAL overdose if it does fall into the wrong hands(like so many prescription pills already do).Plus we already know Vaporizers do a good job of realeasing the plant components with few carcinogens. All we really need is a labeled breakdown of cannibinoids and a sealable package. And if BIG PHARMA wants to jump in they should just hire some industy insiders to help isolate strains and grow large mono-culture crop for consistancy!

    November 14, 2009 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. just the facts, please

    1. there are ALLREADY over 17,000 scientific studies, all reaching a pro-pot conclusion.
    we really don't need more study.

    2. there is a big debate on the issue of the ACTUAL SCIENCE (pro-pot) versus political ideology (anti-pot) going on now in england, go to google news and look up "nutt, sacked".

    3. the THC pill is schedule 3.

    4. if the THC pill is medically efficatious, how can pot have no medical value?
    that is like saying a vitimin C pill is good, but oranges are bad / useless / ineffective.

    November 15, 2009 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. MatterofLiberty

    Since Marinol is already a Schedual III drug we must admit to oursleves that it is already commonly accepted THC has medical use, and is available for prescription with refill. If we are going to consider this then we must conclude that either: A)The active component of Cannabis that makes you "high" is not THC. OR: B)That THC(and the natural mechanism of pruduction Cannabis) is only as harmful as a Schedual III drug! How could it be both?!? As long as Vaporization is used it is no different than using current inhalor technology.

    November 15, 2009 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Charles in Charge

    Ameet and Stormy-back it up with facts not Gov propaganda

    November 16, 2009 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Brad

    This comment is addressed to "Stormy".
    Your information is absolutely false, and could only come from anti-marijuana propagandists with absolutely no basis in scientific or medical studies. Either you are are a bald faced liar, or you are spreading the lies you have read without any basis in fact. Either way, you are spreading absolutely false information, and are one of the people who could stand to benefit most from actual medical research, seeing as you are completely ignorant of any valid information on this subject. Please bear in mind that I do have sympathy for mentally challenged individuals, but do not believe that this forum is the appropriate venue for you to voice your fantasies. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that marijuana has any adverse effect on the immune system. A recent large scale study conducted at UCLA, with the intended purpose to prove that marijuana did in fact cause cancer, unexpectedly came to the exact opposite conclusion; that marijuana absolutely does not cause cancer. To state that marijuana contributes to bipolar disorder, depression, and an array of mental difficulties and may cause uncontrollable aggressiveness is ridiculous propaganda that is obviously intended for people who have absolutely no knowledge of the effects of marijuana. In fact, anyone who has ever suffered from these problems, and has smoked marijuana regularly would tell you that it is very helpful with the treatment of these symptoms. There exists no evidence that marijuana has any adverse effects on the bronchial system, as a matter of fact, there is absolutely no credible basis for claiming that marijuana has any adverse effects on health in any way whatsoever. Please save your propaganda for people who have no knowledge of marijuana. If the AMA does condone serious studies with the aim at determining the possible medical benefits of marijuana, instead of trying to scare everyone into believing the ridiculous, and baseless propaganda that the government has been spreading for decades, Americans will be able to legally benefit from what we were once told was such a dangerous substance. Remember that for several decades, very wealthy and powerful industries (ie. tobacco and alcohol) have been promoting bogus anti-marijuana propaganda in order to keep it illegal. Ironically, the same kind of corporate greed that has kept marijuana illegal for so long, is behind the steps that are being taken to legitimise marijuana at present. There is a lot of money to be made from the sale of marijuana, and big business is getting hungry for jumping onto that wagon. Even if marijuana was harmful, the corporate money-grubbers who own our government will soon be telling you it is not. Just as many drugs that are currently available to us are questionable at best, whatever makes corporations wealthy will soon be approved by the AMA. The fact is that marijuana is not harmful, and has many beneficial properties, but it would soon be legitimised by the AMA even if it were pure poison. It's all about money in America, and in this case we may all benefit.

    November 16, 2009 at 00:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Bob

    Well – it looks like Stormy copied and pasted his entire entry from a 1999 Student Project at Harvard named "Medical Marihuana: Cure or Catastrophe?" [sic]

    No references cited in the article. The entire project was three weeks long.

    Nice job dude – quoting something a rushed student possibly scribbled down the night before something was due. Its obviously editorial at not factual.

    November 16, 2009 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.