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Marijuana: A Missed Medical Opportunity

Clinical trials show marijuana might be useful for pain, nausea and weight loss in cancer and HIV/AIDS and for muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis. But research funding is sparse. 

What’s the Latest Development?

At the end of this year, funding will run out for medical marijuana research in California, the only state to support research on the whole cannabis plant. Some projects researching isolated compounds from marijuana, however, are having an easier time. “The Mayo Clinic is investigating [marijuana’s active chemical tetrahydrocannabinol], trade-named Marinol, as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston are studying Marinol for chronic pain.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Despite a 2002 petition supported by the American Medical Association to change marijuana’s classification, it remains a Schedule I drug, a substance that ‘has a high potential for abuse’ and ‘has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.’ Some see a catch-22: the D.E.A. claims there are not enough clinical trials demonstrating marijuana’s benefit, yet classification as a Schedule I drug severely limits research by making marijuana difficult for researchers to obtain.


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