Is marijuana an effective cancer therapy?
“It is already widely understood that marijuana is valuable and safe as a palliative medicine, which undermines the tenets of the Schedule 1 status,” says Gerdeman. “But additionally, there are anecdotal patient reports, increasing numbers of legitimate clinical case studies, and large amounts of preclinical studies that all indicate tumor-fighting activities of cannabinoids, and with great mechanistic detail.” Gerdeman says he wants to know whether herbal marijuana is effective in cancer therapy, and if it is, for what cancer types.
What does it do to the brain?
Studies have shown small structural changes in the brains of people who use marijuana, and researchers say there is little doubt that using marijuana has effects on the brain. However, whether those changes are actually bad, remains unknown. “This is an important question with tremendous policy implications,” says Gerdeman. “While the media interpret such [changes] de facto as evidence of damage, they are within the range of normal human variation as far as we currently understand.”
What dosage or strains have the best use in medicine?
Researchers say they want to know more about how much marijuana is needed to treat a person’s disorder, and for how long. “Like all drugs, FDA-approved therapeutics or recreational, marijuana will have some unwanted side effects,” says Sinai’s Hurd. In addition, researchers are still looking into what strains are most beneficial and whether a person needs the whole plant, or just one compound.
Can marijuana help brain and cognitive problems?
Some researchers, like Gerdeman, want to study whether marijuana could stave off Alzheimer’s disease or even mitigate brain damage from stroke or concussions. One 2014 study suggested a compound in marijuana could slow the production of proteins that accumulate when a person has Alzheimer’s.
What about anxiety?
There’s some evidence suggesting marijuana could help people with anxiety, but the relationship is still not well understood. “Without the clinical trials it may be a long time before we know for sure,” says Patel.
Can pot help end the opioid epidemic?
As TIME has previously reported, several doctors are interested in the use of marijuana as an alternative or adjunct to opioids, since the U.S. is currently in the midst of an epidemic of painkiller addiction. “If you give [opioids] alongside cannabis, there is a synergistic effect which means you can give less of the opioid and or you can give the opioid for a shorter period,” says Dr. Lester Grinspoon is Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. A 2016 study found doctors in a state where marijuana was legal prescribed an average of 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year.
Are there long term consequences of using pot?
Scientists also want to understand whether marijuana can cause any effects over the long term, since some people may use the plant medicinally for some time. “What are the effects on the developing brain?,” says Hurd. “This is a particularly important question for me since our preclinical studies suggested that prenatal and adolescent THC exposure can have long-term impact into adulthood long after the drug was administered.”
Recent research out of the University of Colorado, which was presented recently at the North American Spine Society’s annual meeting, has found that nearly 90% of those with back problems who consume cannabis find either great, or moderate relief from their cannabis consumption, and 81% believe it helps them as much, or more than traditional painkillers.
For the study, researchers examined 184 patients at a Colorado spine center. According to Michael Finn, MD, a coauthor of the study, 19% reported using cannabis for pain relief. Of these people, slightly less than half – 46% – were qualified medical cannabis patients in the State of Colorado.
Of those who consumed cannabis, the vast majority – 90% - reported consumption through inhalation. 45% either exclusively, or also consume cannabis orally (tinctures, edibles, etc.), and 29% stated that they vaporize.
According to these cannabis consumers, a total of 89% said that it greatly or moderately relived their back pain. 81% said it worked as well as, or better than narcotic painkillers.
Although more research is needed to confirm that cannabis can relieve pain in the back and spine, this study shows, quite clearly, that those who consume cannabis find at least some form of relief from their consumption.
- Come on Sam you know you want to!
According a recent CBS News poll conducted at the end of October, a slim majority of 51 percent continues to think that marijuana use should be illegal. But support for specifically allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for serious medical conditions - or legalized "medical" marijuana - is far stronger: 77 percent Americans think it should be allowed.
Still, even though most Americans support this, just three in 10 believe that the marijuana currently being bought in this country under state-authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been authorized: for alleviating suffering from serious medical conditions.
A recent CBS News Poll conducted nationwide finds 40 percent of Americans think the use of marijuana should be legal, while 51 percent think it should not. The percentage that favors legalizing marijuana use has been steady for the past two years, but it is larger than it was when CBS News first asked the question back in 1979.
(Credit: CBS News Poll)
Not all demographic groups view this issue the same, however:
- Younger Americans support legalizing marijuana more than older Americans. Slightly more than half of those under thirty favor legalizing the substance (52 percent), while Americans between 30 and 44 are divided. Older Americans tend to oppose legalizing marijuana, particularly those 65 and older (62 percent).
- Most women (54 percent) oppose legalizing marijuana, but men are divided: 46 percent of men favor legalizing it, while 47 percent oppose.
- Regionally, support for legalizing marijuana is strongest in the West, a region that includes 10 of the 16 states that have some form of legalized medical marijuana use. Forty-eight percent of Americans in western states think marijuana use should be legal compared to 45 percent who think it should not be.
- There are differences in terms of both party affiliation and political philosophy. Seven in 10 Republicans oppose legalizing marijuana, while Democrats are divided and independents lean towards legalizing it. Two in three liberals think marijuana should be legal while two in three conservatives think it should not be, and moderates are divided
(Credit: CBS News Poll)
(Credit: CBS News Poll)
While a slight majority of Americans oppose the idea of legalizing marijuana in general, more than three in four think that doctors should be allowed to prescribe small amounts of marijuana for patients suffering from serious illnesses - the conditions for use that are set up in all of the states that have legalized medical marijuana programs. Support for this cuts across age, gender, region, and political affiliation.
But Americans are skeptical that most of the marijuana purchased in the U.S. through state authorized medical marijuana programs is being used in the way it has been sanctioned. Just 31 percent of Americans think marijuana purchased under such programs is being used to alleviate suffering from serious medical illnesses. More than half - 52 percent - think it is being used for other reasons, including four in 10 of those who think marijuana should be legal in general.