What is medical marijuana?
The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions.
However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.
Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses and symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes. In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use.
Scientists are also conducting preclinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions, such as:
- diseases that affect the immune system, including:
- multiple sclerosis (MS), which causes gradual loss of muscle control
- substance use disorders
- mental disorders
Points to Remember
- The term medical marijuana refers to treating symptoms of illness and other conditions with the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts.
- The FDA has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.
- Cannabinoids are chemicals related to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main mind-altering ingredient.
- Currently, the two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant that are of interest for medical treatment are THC and cannabidiol (CBD).
- The body also produces its own cannabinoid chemicals.
- Scientists are conducting preclinical and clinical trials with marijuana and its extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions.
Are People with Health- and Age-Related Problems More Vulnerable to Marijuana’s Risks?
State-approved medicinal use of marijuana is a fairly new practice. For that reason, marijuana’s effects on people who are weakened because of age or illness are still relatively unknown. Older people and those suffering from diseases such as cancer or AIDS could be more vulnerable to the drug’s harmful effects, but more research is needed.