National Academies of Sciences affirms effectiveness of medical marijuana
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on the health impacts of marijuana Thursday, confirming the existence of medical benefits and dispelling some long-held myths about the substance.
The review of more than 10,000 scientific abstracts found, “There is conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids are effective” for the treatment of chronic pain in adults, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and multiple sclerosis spasticity.
“These findings clearly undermine the federal government’s decision to classify marijuana under Schedule I, which is reserved for substances with no medical value,” said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It confirms that marijuana has several medical benefits and is not nearly as problematic as people are often led to believe. There is no rational or scientific justification for our nation’s current marijuana prohibition policy.”
NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano commented on the report as well, stating “The National Academy of Science’s conclusions that marijuana possesses established therapeutic utility for certain patients and that it possesses an acceptable safety profile when compared to those of other medications or recreational intoxicants are not surprising. This evidence has been available for some time, yet for decades marijuana policy in this country has largely been driven by rhetoric and emotion, not science and evidence.”
He adds, “A search on PubMed, the repository for all peer-reviewed scientific papers, using the term ‘marijuana’ yields over 24,000 scientific papers referencing the plant or its biologically active constituents — a far greater body of literature than exists for commonly consumed conventional drugs like Tylenol, ibuprofen, or hydrocodone. Further, unlike modern pharmaceuticals, cannabis possesses an extensive history of human use dating back thousands of years, thus providing society with ample empirical evidence as to its relative safety and efficacy.”
The report also dispels several myths about the health impacts of marijuana. It found no links between smoking marijuana and the development of lung, head, or neck cancers, nor did it establish a link between marijuana use and asthma or other respiratory diseases. The respiratory problems that it did link to smoking marijuana, such as bronchitis, appear to improve after the consumer ceases their use.
According to the report, “There is no or insufficient evidence” linking marijuana use to all-cause mortality (death), deaths from overdose, or occupational accidents or injuries. It also found no substantial evidence of a link between the use of marijuana and the use of other illegal drugs. The report also does not appear to make any links between marijuana use and violent or aggressive behavior. Several of these findings were also included in the National Academies of Sciences’ previous report on marijuana, which was released in 1999.
“The report essentially concludes that marijuana is not harmless, but it is not as harmful as many other products that are regulated for adult use,” Tvert said. “If the researchers conducted a similar study on alcohol, they would conclude that it poses far more harm and provides far fewer medical benefits than marijuana. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and that should be reflected in our nation’s laws.”