Cannabis has record of safety, efficacy
Calls for further study regarding the relative safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis are always welcome ( “Pa. should lead medical marijuana research” ). But such calls should not inadvertently ignore or minimize the evidence that is already available.
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. Moreover, cannabis and its compounds are among some of the more studied biologically active substances of modern times. A search on PubMed using the term “marijuana” yields over 26,000 scientific papers referencing the plant and/or its constituents. This totality of peer-reviewed research is far greater than that which exists for most conventional pharmaceuticals, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Thirty states now permit physicians to recommend marijuana therapy. Some of these state-sanctioned programs have been in place for over two decades. Findings from this real-world experience are largely positive. In particular, data show that patients reduce their use of opioids and other pharmaceuticals when they have legal access to cannabis.
At a minimum, we know enough about the safety and efficacy of cannabis, as well as the failures of cannabis prohibition, to allow adults — and patients in particular — the legal option to consume a botanical product that is objectively safer than the litany of pharmaceutical and recreational substances it could replace.
The writer is deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( norml.org ).