Drugs & Health Blog

What’s Wrong With “Medical Marijuana”?

The NIDA Blog Team

This is the first post of a 3-part series on the science of medical marijuana.  Check out Part 2: Making Medicine From Marijuana, and Part 3: Medicines or Poisons?—Why Cannabinoids Can Both Help and Hurt You.

Before modern medical science, most medicines were raw herbs or herbal concoctions of one sort or another. They sometimes helped patients, but those benefits weren’t very powerful by today’s standards, and they often had a lot of unpredictable or even dangerous side effects.

That’s because all plants contain hundreds or thousands of different chemicals. If you eat or smoke the leaves of any plant, you are putting all those chemicals in your body, and the results can be unpredictable.

Marijuana is no different.

Still, there is growing public support for “medical marijuana,” based on anecdotal evidence (that is, from individual people’s personal experience) that the drug might be useful in treating various diseases, including PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), pain, and epilepsy.

Voters in 23 states have now passed laws allowing marijuana to be dispensed to patients, as long as they receive permission from a doctor.

Why doesn’t the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve “medical marijuana”?

Turns out, there’s very little scientific evidence that smoking or eating marijuana is effective and safe for treating any medical issues. Scientific evidence would have to come from carefully controlled research studies.

Since there’s no science to back it up, the FDA has not approved smoked or vaporized marijuana for the treatment of any medical condition.

The FDA only approves medicines when large studies examining lots of patients (called clinical trials) show that the medicines work safely. Without these studies, the FDA can’t promise people that the medications will help them and not harm them. 

So why haven’t there been clinical trials on marijuana? 

Because marijuana is a raw herb. There are over 500 different chemicals in marijuana, in combinations that vary widely between different strains and even from plant to plant. This causes serious problems trying to use the whole marijuana leaf, or crude extracts like hash oil, as medicine:

  1. It’s hard to deliver precise, accurate doses of the right chemicals;
  2. It can harm the lungs if users smoke it; and
  3. It causes additional effects—like the “high”—that may interfere with the quality of life of patients taking the drug for serious medical conditions.

Plus, when used by teens or children, it could even harm their brains as they develop.

Today, there are almost no approved medicines that are whole herbs. Although it’s not impossible, it would be very unusual if marijuana became an exception.

How can we discover and use marijuana’s medical benefits without the harms?

In Part 2, you'll learn how scientists are busy trying to create actual medicines from the chemical ingredients in marijuana.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


This is a bad idea.
People can use marijuana for medical purposes, but that is not what they are often used for today. They are used to get high and have the illusion of creativity. Marijuana can be used for good purposes in my opinion but usually it's not.
People with chronic pain are often unable to work. If Marijuana relieves the pain, how are you able to function in the world when you are high? It is a double edge sword!
Marijuana ain't good
marijuana is bad dont do drugs or u will be screwed
when I do marijuana with my friends we bop bop bop to the top, but we always know were all in this together <3
Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6.Holy Bible.
i been smoking weed since 13.Off an on. I have had many jobs operating heavy machines an no accident. the only ill and bad feeling ive had from it is the law. when they busted me thats the bad side of yarndi pot weed. pills suck and some of the pills out there that dont really do nothing besides a pharmacy,s life is the people that need there pills if a pharmacy had a cure to everything they would not be filthy rich huh. just saying take smokes for example an booze how many have died of those drugs but it is a big money maker so they never be taken out of the shops now will they.then again im just a pot head! PIECE.
jesus is fake you know when they said he created every thing. not true he only created created the people the world and the animals.We crated the rest so its a lie what people say
wow god is the creator ... if u believe that god didn't create the world then why are you here
Well you see, simple biology and sexual reproduction and evolution are the cause of that my dear Watson.
Well just like every other thing in the world weed can be abused by people and have a positive side. If the positives outweigh the bad than I say use weed but if you are using weed every day just to get high with your bud's than stop there are people who legitimately need weed as a legitimately drug and I say God created it to help them just like anything else he created was for good. It's us who screws it up and abuses the good things he made.
i think it should be band is hrams your lungs and brain
Well inhaling smoke is bad for your lungs in general but you don't have to "Smoke it " there are other ways to get it in your system and in my opinion cigarettes are worse that weed. Weed is natural cigarettes are full of dangerous chemicals
This article says that there are chemicals in cannabis that are toxic to us and our lungs. However the article fails to specify what the dangers of the chemicals are, or even what chemicals we are talking about.

Hi there, you can read about the risks of marijuana use on the page linked in the article: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana

Thanks for all the info:)


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