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Cannabis Research

The Case for Medical Cannabis

The Scientific Case for Medical Cannabis:  A Better Healing Alternative to Some Pharmaceutical Drugs

“The evidence is overwhelming that marijuana can relieve certain types of pain, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms caused by such illnesses as multiple sclerosis, cancer and AIDS -- or by the harsh drugs sometimes used to treat them. And it can do so with remarkable safety. Indeed, marijuana is less toxic than many of the drugs that physicians prescribe every day.”(1) 

-- Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General under President Clinton

Scientific Findings on Medical Cannabis

  • “The medical literature on marijuana goes back 5,000 years. In a 1999 study commissioned by the White House, the Institute of Medicine reported, ‘nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety . . . all can be mitigated by marijuana.’ In its April 2003 issue, the British medical journal The Lancet reported that marijuana relieves pain in virtually every test that scientists use to measure pain relief.”(2)
  • Cannabis provides a treatment option for individuals who do not respond or respond inadequately to the therapies currently available.(3)
  • “Marijuana's therapeutic uses are well documented in scientific literature. Recent scientific studies have confirmed what has been reported to us by hundreds of people living with HIV - that marijuana can be safely used to reduce nausea and vomiting, stimulate appetite, and promote weight gain. Marijuana is widely recognized by physicians specializing in AIDS care as an important component of treatment…”(4)
  • Opiates such as morphine and codeine are the most commonly used drugs for acute pain, but often result in debilitating side effects like nausea, sedation, and dependency. Cannabis can provide similar treatment without these adverse side effects.(5)
  • More than 6,500 reports and journal articles support the use of cannabis as medicine, including studies commissioned by the US government, which currently does not support legalization.(6)
  • "Eighty-five percent of the BPG [Berkeley Patients Group] sample reported that cannabis has much less adverse side effects than their prescription medications. Additionally, the top two reasons listed by participants as reasons for substituting cannabis for one of the substances previously mentioned were less adverse side effects from cannabis (65%) and better symptom management from cannabis (57.4%).”(7)
  • The DEA's Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young: "In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume.”(8)
  • In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, cannabis was effective in reducing pain and sleep disturbance in patients with multiple sclerosis.(9) Other studies have produced similar results, particularly proving the efficacy of marijuana in treating spasticity and pain.(10)
  • Marijuana has been shown to have anti-oxidant properties and actually inhibits the growth of tumors.(11)
  • “Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy.”(12)
  • There is evidence that cannabis use among Hepatitis C patients who are undergoing treatment has been beneficial by helping them maintain adherence to the challenging medication regiment.(13)
  • Numerous public health organizations support the medical use of cannabis, including the AIDS Action Council (1996), the American Academy of Family Physicians (1995), the American Academy of HIV Medicine (2003), the American Cancer Society (1997), the American College of Physicians (2008), the American Medical Association (2009), the American Nurses Association (2003), the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (1999), the American Public Health Association (1994), the California Medical Association (1997), Crescent Alliance Self-Help for Sickle Cell (1999), the Federation of American Scientists (1994), the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (1995), the Institute of Medicine (1999), Kaiser Permanente (1997), the Lymphoma Foundation of America (1997), the Multiple Sclerosis California Action Network (1996), the National Association for Public Health Policy (1998), the National Association of People With AIDS (1992), the National Institute of Health (1997), among many others.

Health Conditions Treated with Medical Cannabis

If cannabis were discovered today, it would be considered a medical wonder-plant. Patients suffering from a variety of conditions have found that specific strains of medical cannabis are often a more effective treatment than expensive pharmaceutical drugs produced by large corporations. As an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical pills and their many debilitating side effects, medical professionals have prescribed medical cannabis for a wide variety of conditions, including:

  • Cancer
  • Anorexia
  • AIDS
  • Glaucoma
  • Chronic Pain
  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma
  • Premenstrual Tension
  • Withdrawal from other drugs
  • And many other conditions

Important note: Cannabis will have variable effects when used by different people and under different circumstances. You must discuss indications and side effects with your doctor. SPARC cannot offer medical advice and makes no claims as to the efficacy of medication obtained through our dispensary. Please read the “Sensible Cannabis Use” section of your member handbook for more information.  Footnotes:

  1. Elders, Joycelyn “Myths About Medical Marijuana.” The Providence Journal, 26 March 2004.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, "Report to the Legislature and Governor of the State of California presenting findings pursuant to SB847 which created the CMCR and provided state funding," University of California, (San Diego, CA: February 2010), p. 2.  http://www.cmcr.ucsd.edu/CMCR_REPORT_FEB17.pdf
  4. Dr. Gates Jr., Henry Louis, et. al. Open letter to General Barry McCaffrey, director of the Office for National Drug Control Policy, 24 February 1999. http://www.csdp.org/openltr.htm
  5. Joy, Janet E., et. al. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. 1999, pp. 140.
  6. “Medical Cannabis Research: What does the evidence say?” Americans For Safe Access.; Elders, Joycelyn. “Myths About Medical Marijuana.” The Providence Journal, 26 March 2004.
  7. Reiman, Amanda, "Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs," Harm Reduction Journal 6(35): December 2009.http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/pdf/1477-7517-6-35.pdf
  8. US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, "In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition," [Docket #86-22], (September 6, 1988), p. 57. http://www.druglibrary.org/olsen/medical/young/young4.html
  9. Rog, David J. et. al. “Randomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in central pain in multiple sclerosis.” Neurology 65(6):812-9. American Academy of Neurology. 2005. http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/65/6/812
  10. Consroe, Paul, et. al. “The Perceived Effects of Smoked Cannabis on Patients with Multiple Sclerosis.” European Neurology No. 38: 44-48, 1997.
  11. Guzman, Manuel. “Cannabinoids: Potential Anticancer Agents.” Nature Reviews, Vol. 3: p. 745. October 2003.
  12. Abrams, Donald, M.D., et. al. “Cannabis in painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy: A randomized placebo-controlled trial.” Neurology, Vol. 68: p. 515. 2007.
  13. Sylvestre, Diana L., et. al. “Cannabis use improves retention and virological outcomes in patients treated for hepatitis C.” European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 18(10): 1057-1063, October 2006.

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