West J Med. 1998 Jun; 168(6): 540-3.
Department of Radiation Oncology, Sequoia Hospital, Redwood City California 94062-2799, USA. [email protected]
Although many clinical studies suggest the medical utility of marijuana for some conditions, the scientific evidence is weak. Many patients in California are self-medicating with marijuana, and physicians need data to assess the risks and benefits. The only reasonable solution to this problem is to encourage research on the medical effects of marijuana. The current regulatory system should be modified to remove barriers to clinical research with marijuana. The NIH panel has identified several conditions for which there may be therapeutic benefit from marijuana use and that merit further research. Marijuana should be held to the same evaluation standards of safety and efficacy as other drugs (a major flaw in Proposition 215) but should not have to be proved better than current medications for its use to be adopted. The therapeutic window for marijuana and THC between desired effect and unpleasant side effects is narrow and is a major reason for discontinuing use. Although the inhaled route of administration has the benefit of allowing patients to self-titrate the dose, the smoking of crude plant material is problematic. The NIH panel recommended that a high priority be given to the development of a controlled inhaled form of THC. The presence of a naturally occurring cannabinoid-receptor system in the brain suggests that research on selective analogues of THC may be useful to enhance its therapeutic effects and minimize adverse effects.