How to Evaluate Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana is legal in certain countries, as well as in certain US states. The active constituents in marijuana (Cannabis sativa) are referred to as cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol are the primary cannabinoids that are found in marijuana, although over sixty different cannabinoids have been identified. The medical value and safety of the various cannabinoids, and thus marijuana, is actively researched.


  1. Image titled Recycle Your Computer And Make Money Step 2
    Research the safety of marijuana as a medical drug. The primary concern relating to marijuana involves its safety. All medical drugs must be proven to be relatively safe. Marijuana use can result in an increased heart rate, which may in turn trigger a heart attack. THC can induce an altered state and may cause what has been referred to as acute psychosis. Some studies have also indicated that marijuana use may be associated with schizophrenia. However, marijuana may help to improve certain mental disorders. This is partially demonstrated by the fact that cannabidiol is an anti-psychotic. Scientific studies have also shown that cannabidiol is not psychoactive (won't get you high), and can at least partially counteract the negative psychoactive effects of THC. Cannabidiol is also relatively safe. Smoked marijuana may contribute to diseases of the lung, but has not been shown to be overly associated with lung cancer as cannabinoids may help to prevent cancer. Cannabis sativa can be bred to have very high levels of cannabidiol and very low levels of THC. As such, safer types of marijuana can be developed and distributed. The effective lethal dose of a drug is important, especially when evaluating the risk that is involved with taking various drugs. It is estimated that a minimal effective dose of unrefined smoked marijuana must be increased one million times to produce a lethal dose of unrefined smoked marijuana.
  2. Image titled Find Appropriate Pictures using the Internet Step 3
    Research the effectiveness of marijuana as a medical drug. All medical drugs must be found to be effective, in addition to being safe. Marijuana is an effective drug because all people have cannabinoid receptors in their brain and throughout their body. Marijuana has been used with success as a drug to increase appetite for people who have debilitating diseases such as HIV, AIDS and cancer. Marijuana has also been used successfully to alleviate glaucoma and certain types of chronic pain. Cannabinoids are phenolic-like antioxidant compounds and have been shown to be neuroprotective (protect the brain against damage from alcohol and other toxic compounds as well as from trauma). One recent study conducted in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that cannabidiol is devoid of psychoactive effects, is anti-inflammatory, and is an antioxidant. The study also concluded that cannabidiol may help to improve the pathologies that are associated with diabetes and atherosclerosis (see source by Rajesh et al below). It is important to understand that while THC can cause a noticeable high and binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, other cannabinoids exert their effects by binding to receptors outside of the brain, and do not cause one to get high. These cannabinoids may be important for relieving pain and ameliorating or preventing various disease states.
  3. Image titled Cure Dry Mouth Step 1
    Compare marijuana to alternative, approved drugs. Synthetic THC is an approved prescription drug. Modern cannabis-based drugs that are available outside of the United States (such as Sativex) contain cannabidiol as well as THC. Sativex is a standardized extract made from marijuana plants, and may be a safer, more effective medical drug than pure synthetic THC. Sativex also contains other active cannabinoids and plant constituents. As there are over sixty different cannabinoids in marijuana (not just the cannabinoids THC and cannabidiol), the whole marijuana plant has a greater potential as a more useful, effective drug that can be used for a greater variety of conditions. Medical marijuana may have less debilitating side effects than some approved medical drugs. Opiate-based painkillers, over the counter analgesics, and many other drugs that may be taken instead of marijuana can all be fatal and damaging to the body if too much is taken. Also, various prescription drugs are highly addictive. Marijuana has been found to be habit-forming, but less so than many other medications and legal substances such as nicotine. It is also important to understand that marijuana is a non-standardized plant, while prescription drugs are completely standardized. As such, very specific doses of drugs such as synthetic THC can be administered, while the doses of marijuana must be estimated. In other words, the exact milligrams of THC and cannabidiol that are supplied by a dose of marijuana must be estimated. Also, the effects of the many other cannabinoids that exist in marijuana cannot be accurately predicted.
  4. Image titled Diagnose and Treat Borderline Personality Disorder Step 5
    Determine if marijuana can be prescribed in a safe and effective manner. Doctors prescribe medical marijuana. Doctors can actively monitor patients who use medical marijuana, and therefore help to ensure that the marijuana is used in a safe an effective manner. All medical drugs are approved for specific medical conditions. Approved medical drugs have also been thoroughly researched to determine the benefits and risks that are involved with their use. In the case that marijuana is an officially recognized medical drug, doctors as well as patients can be more assured that the marijuana that they prescribe conforms to specific standards. These standards help to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the marijuana. In the case that marijuana is not an officially recognized medical drug, doctors may not be able to prescribe marijuana with complete confidence that the marijuana will be safe or effective.
  5. Image titled Diagnose and Treat Borderline Personality Disorder Step 3
    Determine if marijuana can be distributed in a safe and effective manner. Prescription drugs and over the counter drugs must be regulated in such a way that they are only distributed to the patients who need them. Drugs must not be easily obtained by people who are not authorized to use them. Some medical marijuana patients can legally grow their own marijuana in a controlled, regulated manner. Other medical marijuana patients obtain their marijuana from authorized as well as unauthorized dispensaries. Some countries and US states have considered implementing dispensaries as well as marijuana farms that are entirely controlled by local or national governments. This system would help to ensure that only approved medical marijuana patients receive medical marijuana. This type of system would also help to ensure that patients are actively monitored and receive correct dosages.
  6. Image titled Determine if Your Partner Is at Risk for HIV or AIDS Step 5
    Determine the availability and cost of medical marijuana. Marijuana is a plant that grows readily in many different climates and geographical locales. Marijuana can also be grown indoors. This makes marijuana affordable and readily available to all people. Essentially all other medical drugs must be manufactured in factories and distributed by pharmacists. Other medical drugs may also be quite expensive.


  • Sativex is a medical drug that is a standardized extract made from marijuana plants. The marijuana plants that are used to make Sativex are grown and processed in a highly controlled manner. The extract is standardized for specific amounts of THC and cannabidiol, but also contains other active cannabinoids and plant-derived constituents.
  • The method by which marijuana is administered is important. Smoked marijuana may contain carcinogenic compounds that are created by the combustion of the plant material. Marijuana in its natural state, however, is not carcinogenic, and in fact has been shown to prevent cancer. Marijuana may therefore be safer if it is taken as an herbal tincture or with a vaporizer.
  • Marijuana is a whole, unrefined plant. As such, it can be classified as a "crude drug". Crude drugs are difficult to accurately standardize, although it is possible to do so. Standardized whole marijuana must be grown in a highly controlled manner, and distributed in such a way that the concentrations of its active components (specific cannabinoids) are maintained at a set, standardized level. However, it is much easier to make standardized products such as extracts from whole plants, as the extract can be easily measured and adjusted for potency. Medications tend to be highly refined, standardized substances. As such, marijuana may be prevented from becoming an approved medication, regardless of its potential safety and effectiveness. However, various medicinal crude botanical products are classified as dietary supplements, and do not have to be standardized.
  • Use PubMed to find scientific articles and research marijuana. Beware of studies that were funded by entities that may be biased (overtly against or overtly for medical marijuana). As such, read a variety of current studies that have been conducted by different researchers, funded by different entities, and published in different journals. Some journals may even be funded by specific governments that are biased against medical marijuana.
  • Marijuana is currently a schedule I drug in the United States. This means that it cannot be used as a standard medical drug, and that its potential for abuse is very high. In order for marijuana to be a federally accepted medical drug in the United States, it must be reclassified as at least a schedule II drug.


  • Marijuana is an illegal drug in many countries. Even when used as a prescribed medicine, its use may result in incarceration.
  • Only use marijuana as a drug if it has been legally prescribed by a licensed physician in a state or country that has legalized the use of medical marijuana.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (23)

Article Info

Categories: Taking Pills and Medicine