How medical is medical marijuana?

A psychiatrist questions whether 23 states know what they’re doing.

The, um, common effects of marijuana are well known. See: Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, the parking lot of any rock music festival. But the medicinal effects are less well understood. Yale psychiatry professor Deepak Cyril D’Souza says that’s a problem when it comes to states legalizing marijuana for specific medical conditions. “We need evidence,” he says—evidence as strong as that required for approving other medications.

D’Souza is the lead author of an editorial published in June in the Journal of the American Medical Association called “Medical Marijuana: Is the Cart Before the Horse?” In it, he discusses the findings of two JAMA studies that the research used to support marijuana use for several of the conditions sanctioned by states’ medical marijuana laws is of “very low quality.”

The studies that do exist, D’Souza says, are mostly too small to draw reliable conclusions, while others have focused solely on THC or CBD—just two of the more than 400 compounds found in cannabis. He knows it can be difficult to do the rigorous double-blind studies he believes are necessary. One problem is that states have hesitated to fund marijuana research. So has the federal government, which considers cannabis a Schedule 1 drug (a drug with, among other things, a high potential for abuse). Plus, D’Souza says, most study participants are able to figure out pretty quickly whether they’ve been given a placebo or the real thing—making double-blind studies more complicated.

D’Souza, who has studied cannabinoids for 20 years, argues without solid science, the term medical marijuana “gives a false impression that it’s being endorsed by physicians.” The bottom line: “We just need to do the research”—and states and the public need to be patient.


  • Danny Hoardern
    Danny Hoardern, 4:33am September 07 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    "How medical is medical marijuana?"

    Neurogenesis, and the ability to access more memories (hyperpriming), is enough evidence it is medicine for all; neurogenesis forms new memories which staves off Alzheimer's Disease... qed

  • Patricia Silverman
    Patricia Silverman, 7:46pm September 07 2015 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    what 70 years was not enough time for you to do your research? we the people have waited long enough run to keep up

The comment period has expired.