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Can Marijuana Be Used as Medicine?

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Updated September 21, 2013

Question: Can Marijuana Be Used as Medicine?
Answer: There has been much debate in the media about the possible medical use of marijuana. Under U.S. law since 1970, marijuana has been a Schedule I controlled substance. This means that the drug, at least in its smoked form, has no commonly accepted medical use.

In considering possible medical uses of marijuana, it is important to distinguish between whole marijuana and pure THC or other specific chemicals derived from cannabis. Whole marijuana contains hundreds of chemicals, some of which are clearly harmful to health.

THC, manufactured into a pill that is taken by mouth, not smoked, can be used for treating the nausea and vomiting that go along with certain cancer treatments and is available by prescription. Another chemical related to THC (nabilone) has also been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating cancer patients who suffer nausea. The oral THC is also used to help AIDS patients eat more to keep up their weight.

Scientists are studying whether marijuana, THC, and related chemicals in marijuana (called cannabinoids) may have other medical uses. According to scientists, more research needs to be done on marijuana's side effects and potential benefits before it can be recommended for medical use.

Back to: Marijuana FAQ for Parents

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