Medical Marijuana Has Come of Age

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of a landmark scientific study

Ten years ago today, the use of medical marijuana went from fringe to mainstream.

March 17, 2009 marks the 10-year-anniversary of the publication of the Institute for Medicine's landmark study on medical cannabis: Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. At the time this report was commissioned, in response to the passage of California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996, many in the public and the mainstream media were skeptical about pot's potential therapeutic value. The publication of the Institute for Medicine's findings—which concluded that marijuana possessed medicinal properties to treat and control pain and to stimulate appetite—provided the issue with long-overdue credibility, and began in earnest a political discourse that continues today.

Of course, much has changed over the past 10 years. For starters, a total of 13 states, encompassing some 72 million Americans, now allow for the medical use of cannabis under state law. In California, several clinical trials have been conducted over the past months demonstrating that inhaled cannabis can significantly reduce hard-to-treat neuropathic pain in patients with HIV and spinal cord injury.

Following the publication of the Institute for Medicine's report, scientific interest into the therapeutic properties of cannabis skyrocketed. A keyword search using the terms "cannabis, 1999" in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed website reveals just 427 scientific journal articles published on the subject during that year. Perform this same search for the year 2008, and one will find over 2,100 published scientific studies.

Whereas researchers in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s primarily assessed cannabis's ability to temporarily alleviate various disease symptoms, scientists today are exploring the potential role of medical marijuana to treat disease itself.

Of particular interest, scientists are investigating marijuana's capacity to moderate autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as their role in the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Lou Gehrig's disease.

Investigators are also studying the anti-cancer activities of cannabis, which has been shown to halt malignant tumor growth in animals. Arguably, these later trends represent far broader and more significant applications for cannabinoid therapeutics than the Institute for Medicine's researchers could have imagined just 10 years ago.

We've also discovered alternative ways to safely, effectively, and rapidly deliver pot's therapeutic properties to patients. Writing in 1999, the Institute for Medicine concluded, "Except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana are within the range of effects tolerate for other medications." The authors went on to recommend the development of "rapid-onset cannabinoid [marijuana] formulations."

Today, such rapid onset delivery systems exist in the form of vaporizers, devices which heat cannabis to a temperature where active vapors form but below the point of combustion where noxious smoke and associated toxins are produced. In 2007, investigators at San Francisco General Hospital assessed this technology and concluded: "Vaporization of marijuana does not result in exposure to combustion gasses...and [was] preferred by most subjects compared to marijuana cigarettes. The [vaporizer] device is an effective and apparently safe vehicle for THC delivery."

As hundreds of thousands of Americans have begun using marijuana under their doctor's supervision, we've learned other lessons as well. First, we've affirmed that medical cannabis is remarkably safe. For example, in 2008 investigators at McGill University in Montreal reviewed over 30 years of data on marijuana and "did not find a higher incidence rate of serious adverse events associated with medical cannabis use" compared to those who never used the drug.

We've also discovered that restricted patient access to medicinal cannabis will not necessarily result in higher use rates among young people. In fact, since the passage of Proposition 215, the use of pot by young people has fallen at a greater rate than the national average.

And finally we've learned—much to the chagrin of our opponents—that in fact the sky will not fall. Rates of hard drug use and drugged driving have not increased in California, and our social value system has not "gone to pot."

So what can we expect over the next 10 years? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: The use of medical cannabis is here to stay. It is time for our federal laws to reflect this reality, and it is time for our politicians to regulate marijuana like other accepted prescription medicines.

Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Washington, DC, and the co-author of the forthcoming book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink.

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  • O\'Taktix®||

    Someone please tell me where I can find an action figure version of the Green Devil in that picture...

  • ||

    Happy anniversay!

  • ||

    How, exactly, is that picture supposed to NOT make me want to smoke weed?

  • Warty||

    Epi, beware! Marihuana leads to premarital sex!

  • ||

    How, exactly, is that picture supposed to NOT make me want to smoke weed?

    Maybe if you really, really don't like blondes?

  • ||

    Epi, beware! Marihuana leads to premarital sex!
    ...
    Maybe if you really, really don't like blondes?


    You're both just making it worse.

  • ||

    Who is the green dude?

  • SpongePaul||

    and sin and insanity and vice and one other thing on the green devil i can not make out. THE SMOKE OF HELL! LOL must have been headachy mexi-schwag

  • O\'Taktix®||

    How, exactly, is that picture supposed to NOT make me want to smoke weed?

    Well, one of the boxes says "segregation."

    But IIRC, the makers of such an advertisement would be in favor of sergregation...

  • SpongePaul||

    On a serious note. Mr Armemtano is a very wise man. if he were not so much a nerdy looking man, ala Dr. Paul, Who i also respect and admire. He would be more effective. but hey, at least he does not look like the sterotypical patchouli smelling hippie stoners. Which in my experince exist in very small numbers. most tokers are like us. scientist docotrs lawyers managers athletes etc etc.

  • ||

    Sin, huh? So, God created a plant to tempt us? What a dick.

  • ||

    Who is the green dude?

    Whoever he is, he's got a way with the ladies, apparently. Even if she's just using him for his weed.

  • Reinmoose||

    Who is the green dude?

    I suspect he's a jazz player. "Reefer slows down the smoker's sense of time, allowing him to squeeze in unnecessary grace notes, giving this voodoo music the power to hypnotize white women into indulging in acts of unspeakable degradation."

  • O\'Taktix®||

    Minus the one that looks like segregation, all those "dangers" are common terms for a good time in today's vernacular.

    Either the "Rapture is Coming" people were right or that poster is proof that we've managed to escape a very oppresive period of our country's history...

  • ||

    I suspect he's a jazz player.

    That, or a leprechaun. They're always trying to seduce white women too, but they use their insidious Lucky Charms.

  • ||

    @SpongePaul: Yeah I think that stereotype has set the cause back significantly. Like you said, most pot smokers are perfectly normal people; we don't live in communes and sing sings all day. I am a proud, hard-working, pot-smoking engineer.

    The practice of ridiculing smokers as Shaggy hippies who will eat anything in sight is widely perpetrated by the media, and is extremely harmful to the cause. This issue deserves serious discussion, not munchie jokes.

  • BakedPenguin||

    SpongePaul, it looks like "Sepadatition". Which I take to mean "growing grandpa eyebrows".

  • ||

    Haha, "sing sings". How exactly does one sing a sing?

    Damn lack of an edit button.

  • MarijuanaLobby||

    See how much our US Cities, States, Country and households could save on taxes if Marijuana were decriminalized, then sign the petition: MarijuanaLobby.org Change we can engage in...

    MarijuanaLobby.org is redefining the Lobby Influence pieces of democracy, for the people by the people as our founders had originally intended.

    Yes, We Can America:
    A) save what's left of our forests,
    B) ease the suffering of chemotherapy patients, and
    C) create desperately needed revenue streams for American communities during their time of greatest need.

    MarijuanaLobby.org seeks to enable American Patriots and Policy Makers in their continued efforts to decriminalize responsible Marijuana use in the United States by providing a petition portal specific to the issue of marijuana decriminalization, and by providing additional tools with which to empower citizen activists through education and public discourse. We need signatures!

  • ||

    giving this voodoo music the power to hypnotize white women into indulging in acts of unspeakable degradation

    Please tell me this was a real "warning", Moose.

    The practice of ridiculing smokers as Shaggy hippies who will eat anything in sight is widely perpetrated by the media

    Scooby Doo is a lie? I thought it was a documentary.

  • ||

    How about just legalizing marijuana, not tax it, let people that work keep their earnings, and allow Americans to grow by themselves?

    Or does it all have to be about the "revenue" for the State?

  • Tyler||

    MarijuanaLobby, if the "we can make taxes from it!" argument is the best way to expand our freedom, go for it.

    But the real reason that Prohibition is a failure is not because it's expensive and wasteful (which it is), but because of its disrespect for self-ownership and the constitution.

    It's just sad that people will only turn to liberty as a final resort, just because the alternative is too expensive and we're in a financial crisis.

  • ||

    Or does it all have to be about the "revenue" for the State?

    If you want it legalized, yes.

  • ||

    @Episiarch: Like, wow Scoob!

  • Orange Line Special||

    dude just legalizie it alreadany aok? what are you awaitng forai oabam? whats oingn on whyy are jyou likes uthis way? man your beinng harsh nanman man

    Well, "dude", let me explain things to you, although in your state it probably won't sink in. Reason had their chance when BHO solicited questions. They could have easily come up with a good question and tried to get all you "dudes" to concentrate on just that one question. Instead, they did nothing. "Dude".

  • ||

    @FTG, Tyler: Yeah you are both absolutely right. The real problems with prohibition are about a lot more than state income. It gets down to fundamental rights.

    Still though, like Nick said, we know the government is only going to go along if they can see the money. And even then it would be a miracle.

  • Rimshot||

    "I suspect he's a jazz player. "Reefer slows down the smoker's sense of time, allowing him to squeeze in unnecessary grace notes, giving this voodoo music the power to hypnotize white women into indulging in acts of unspeakable degradation.""

    Note to self: smoke weed, learn to play jazz.

  • ||

    Rrrokay, Rrrhyader! Scooby-dooby-DOOOOOO

  • SpongePaul||

    It was not reasons responsibility to come up with a question for you. it was/is your duty to ask the question for yourself!

  • ||

    " Yeah I think that stereotype has set the cause back significantly."

    Jim Breuer should be drawn and quartered. Very. Slowly.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120693/

  • Reinmoose||

    Epi -
    It's from Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical

    But they did do an awful lot of quoting of William Randolph Hearst, so it may have been...

  • ||

    "Well, "dude", let me explain things to you, although in your state it probably won't sink in. Reason had their chance when BHO solicited questions. They could have easily come up with a good question and tried to get all you "dudes" to concentrate on just that one question. Instead, they did nothing. "Dude"."

    I'm guessing you also regularly lecture corpses in the county morgue.

  • ||

    @Widow: Hah yeah, of course, we could point the finger at Cheech and Chong just as easily.

    I don't really think obvious comedy is nearly as insidious as those kinds of jokes appearing within the media. But yet any time I see Rob Kampia or anyone else being interviewed on TV about marijuana, the anchor can hardly help himself/herself from using the spaced-out voice and throwing in a few munchie jokes.

    One notable exception was a recent interview by Rachel Maddow of MPP's Bruce Mirken. Very well done.

  • Xe O\'Nes||

    Shut the fook up, LoneWacko.

  • ||

    Kinda tall for a leprechaun, isn't he?

  • ||

    Remember when we bet that you would have to suck my balls if I could prove leprechauns existed, ProL? Well, get ready. I haven't showered for a few days so they're kind of vinegary.

  • John||

    We need to keep marihuana illegal because of the effect it has on the degenerate races. It makes the darky think he is as good as white men.

  • ed||

    "A vicious racket with it's arms around your children!"

    Marijuana leads to punctuation errors!

  • ||

    Yes, I bet you "remind" strange men in bars about that alleged bet you made with them, too, all of the time.

    He can't be a demon, either, because they are always red.

  • Tyler||

    Rhayader,

    The worst one I can think of is a recent interview of MPP's Rob Kampia by Glenn Beck. What made it so painful was:

    1) Glenn Beck labels himself as a libertarian, but misrepresents the views and is a total moron sometimes. So when I tell someone I'm a libertarian, they get to have a little voice say "Hey, just like Glenn Beck" in the back of their head.

    2) His jokes were awkward and really detracted from the interview. He didn't comment on anything that Rob had to say, instead he just made faces and went on about the munchies. If I remember correctly, he even had props.

    3) His jokes weren't even funny, or hinting at any kind of truth. He was only making ignorant stabs at the idea of any legislation ever favoring marijuana.

  • ||

    We should trademark "libertarian." When Beck and Maher can both run around calling themselves libertarian, that's a tarnished brand.

  • ||

    Oh, no no no, not so fast ProL. I've waited a long time for this I intend to savor each and every second.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    On second thought, I think you may be the insane green dude.

    While you're here, is there any truth to the rumor that Roland Emmerich is directing a movie of Asimov's Foundation? The correct answer would be no. Please.

  • ||

    The correct answer would be no.

    Yes.

    I think you may be the insane green dude.

    This explains it.

  • ||

    @Tyler: Yeah I saw that interview. And see, that's what almost every single story on the subject descends into.

    The guest tries to talk about a war that is ruining our country, and the host wants to joke about forgetfulness. It's rampant and inexcusable.

  • ||

    Oh, good. It was a reference. I was wondering what the Hell of the Green Demons Who Mate with Blond Women you were talking about.

    As for Foundation. . .for the love of God, Montressor! For the love of God! And yet I have to be thankful that the idiot who frakked up I, Robot didn't get it. Why do they insist on violating Asimov like this? His books are straightforward and movie friendly. They don't piss on Dick's memory every. . .single. . .time.

  • Ben||

    All this nattering about potential tax income from cannabis roundly ignores the cash flowing through the prison system, the legal system (particularly attorney's offices), the rehab programs, law enforcement, and of course the "concerned" mommies, daddies, rev-runds, social jerkers and other intellectual zeros who will re-elect anyone who speaks the magic words "for the children" in any context whatsoever, regardless anything smacking of objective fact.

    The drug war isn't going to end. Obama's administration has already reversed that temporary decision to not prosecute MM using their perversion of the commerce clause to shit all over state's rights.

    Enjoy.

  • Ska||

    I haven't showered for a few days so they're kind of vinegary.

    Awesome line.

  • ||

    I hadn't heard anything about a Foundation movie. It could be cool, but probably would be a hacked over-simplification.

    Like Pro L said, Assimov's work begs for a great movie. His ability to create an all-encompassing fictional universe was second to none.

  • ||

    Rhayader,

    Review the works of Roland Emmerich, then you can dispense with any doubt about whether this version will be any good. Why can't we get some great director? Just once? Please?

    Caves of Steel would make a rockin' movie.

  • ||

    Blech, popcorn action movie crap. Yeah you're right, we're screwed.

    Also, Caves is freakin' awesome.

  • ||

    David Fincher is off of Rama, maybe he could do a Caves of Steel.

  • ||

    With Will Smith as Hari Seldon, the wisecrackin', ass kickin', woman-lovin' psychohistorian, and Scarlett Johansson as Hari's girlfriend, Gaal Dornick.

  • ||

    We need comic relief. How about Paulie Shore as R. Daneel Olivaw?

  • ||

    I'm feeling nauseated.

  • ||

    Well, you did it to yourself.

    HEY, BUD-DEE!

  • ||

    Jehoshaphat!

  • O\'Taktix®||

    Bless you!

  • ||

    I intend to maintain a constant state of indignancy until a proper Asimov movie is produced.

  • Ben||


    I haven't showered for a few days so they're kind of vinegary.

    Awesome line.



    The poster lifted that line -- without credit -- from South Park.

  • ||

    Ben,

    Indeed! I recommend that you insult him regularly and bring up his plagiarism on a regular basis. His name is Episiarch. That's E-P-I-S-I-A-R-C-H.

  • Harry Dean||

    Degradation, not segregation.

  • Harry Dean||

    I meant on the picture. Although, "degradation not segregation" sounds like part of a weird racist slogan. As in, "they want degradation instead of segregation."

  • ||

    Uh, Ben, I credited South Park in my 4:29 link under the word "This".

  • ||

    Lies! Lies! Condemn him! Chastise him soundly!

    AND DON'T CLICK ON THAT LINK!

  • Ska||

    I knew it was from SP - it was my favorite line from the imagination land miniseries.

  • Brinna Nanda||

    That's DEGRADATION not SEGREGATION, silly.

    But all joking aside, our government's anti-marijuana policy stifles investigation into the incredible curative properties of cannabis; puts patients whose lives depend on it, at risk; and wastes huge amounts of resources by including cannabis in the ongoing, and fruitless War on Drugs.

  • Scarpe Nike||

    is good

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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