In a landmark article in the Journal of Opioid Management, University of Washington researcher Sunil Aggarwal and colleagues document 33 U.S. controlled clinical trials published from 1971 to 2009 confirming that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine for specific medical conditions.
Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, defining it as having high potential for abuse, unsafe for use even under medical supervision, and lacking currently accepted medical uses in the U.S. "In fact," Aggarwal and colleagues write, "nearly all of the 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States have shown significant and measurable benefits in subjects receiving the treatment." Additionally, the paper documents the growing acceptance of the therapeutic use of marijuana among organized medicine groups and estimates that "in 2008, approximately 7,000 American physicians have made such authorizations for a total of approximately 400,000 patients."
Regarding abuse and safety issues, Aggarwal et al. write that withdrawal symptoms -- a classic symptom of drug dependence -- are notably absent from the published trials, while "the vast majority of reported adverse events were not serious ... It is clear that as an analgesic, cannabis is extremely safe with minimal toxicity."
Unfortunately, the article continues, ignorance regarding marijuana remains widespread in the medical community. "There remains a near complete absence of education about cannabinoid medicine in any level of medical training," Aggarwal writes.
"This is arguably the most thorough review of the literature on medical marijuana since the Institute of Medicine report over a decade ago, with a trove of data that wasn't available to the IOM," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "It is simply incomprehensible that a medicine that is so clearly safe and effective remains banned from medical use by federal law and the laws of 37 states."
The article, "Medicinal Use of Cannabis in the United States: Historical Perspectives, Current Trends, and Future Directions," is available at http://tinyurl.com/m9oo44.
By Marijuana Policy Project
September 15, 2009