An Addiction Science Network Resource


Medical Marijuana

This page is a working draft provided for those who would like to check our progress on this project. While we’re under construction, please visit the links to, NORML, and other resources listed below for information about medical marijuana. And please check back later or e-mail to request notification when the page is revised.

Position Statement

The ASNet specifically:


(1.)  endorses the medicinal use of marijuana for compassionate use including non-terminal but chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions involving neuropathic pain unresponsiveness to conventional medications,


(2.)  firmly disagrees with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other government agencies that purport marijuana to be a highly addictive substance similar to cocaine and heroin (in fact, we consider this assertion to be particularly irresponsible and call upon these government agencies to soften their rhetoric regarding marijuana and to recognize its actual status as a ‘soft drug’),


(3.)  supports the decriminalization of marijuana and applauds progressive state legislative bodies such as that seen in our home state of New York who have already de facto decriminalized marijuana,


(4.)  while not advocating the recreational use of marijuana presently withholds opinion on this popular activity, and


(5)  the ASNet does not endorse the legalization of marijuana at this time.


You can comment on our position at the ASNet Discussion Forum.


The scientific evidence overwhelmingly favors the medical use of marijuana. The evidence has been compelling for a long time. In fact, several Presidential Committees spanning several decades have uniformly concluded that there is substantial evidence for medicinal effects from marijuana, and heightened interest in the past decade has prompted considerable study both empirical and theoretical. The overwhelming conclusion remains the same as purported over three decades ago with added emphasis on decriminalizing small quantities of marijuana for personal use. As a result of the growing scientific evidence and of the grass-roots support, an increasing number of States now recognize the medical use of marijuana although technically it remains illegal under Federal jurisdiction.

Applicable Medical Conditions

We are generally in agreement with the conclusions drawn by NORML regarding the conditions for which there is substantial evidence of a significant medicinal effect of marijuana and need not duplicate here their extensive listing of applicable conditions. (A link to their summaries is provided on the graphic below.) We further emphasize the use of marijuana for conditions involving neuropathic pain for which available medications are simply inadequate. We also underscore the potential value of marijuana in palliative care where patient comfort is difficult to achieve.




Important off-site sources of information about the medicinal use of marijuana:


Cannabis as Medicine





Graphics courtesy of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). 


The Risks

Increased availability of a substance seems to invariably lead to increased use of that substance. This is true for both hard and soft drugs. Marijuana use is already very high (the most popular illicit drug world wide), and its popularity is likely to increase somewhat but probably not dramatically. Because the actual addiction liability of marijuana is relatively low, this is likely to lead to only a small increase in the number of problem users of marijuana. Although even a small increase in this number is undesirable, this is a rational cost for the millions more that would benefit from the medicinal use of marijuana. It is worth noting that those presenting marijuana-use problems are most likely comorbid for another psychological disorder that might have eventually emerged independent of marijuana use. Indeed, the marijuana use may unmask an underlying psychological problem that, although subclinical prior to sustained marijuana use, the remediation of which could cause an overall improvement in the individual’s quality of life. (Now, take a deep breath . . . exhale. We’re not really suggesting that marijuana should be used to unmask clinically significant underlying psychological disorders but only pointing out that the marijuana abuse that undoubtedly occurs in some individuals [specifically the problem drug use involving dual diagnosis] might have a positive benefit provided that proper psychological care is available.)

The Benefits

The primary benefit is increased availability and decreased stigmatization of a substance that has desirable medicinal effects for a variety of illnesses. Some secondary benefits include:


  1. decreased cost to consumers,
  2. decreased cost to society for criminal prosecution while freeing up valuable law enforcement, judicial, and penitentiary resources for more serious problems including those related to hard drugs,
  3. regulation of purity, quality, and safety, and
  4. consumer education including information provided by the government and the mainstream medical community.

Why Dronabinol Isn’t Enough

A synthetic version of the primary active ingredient in marijuana (THC) has been available for a while through prescription. It is argued by the Food and Drug Administration that this suffices for medicinal use in situations where natural cannabis might be beneficial. Indeed, dronabinol (Marinol) does have application in some of the sundry conditions where marijuana is useful but it fails in many others. There are two likely reasons for this. First and most obvious is the fact that cannabis contains several active ingredients in addition to its best known constituent THC. More to follow . . .

Should Marijuana Be Legalized?

Ah, at last the real can of worms gets opened!

Related Topics

            A Primer on Drug Addiction

            Biological Basis of Addiction

            Distinguishing Drug Abuse from Drug Addiction

            Soft and Hard Drugs



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