10-Minute Summary
last updated in Jan. 2006

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview
  3. Medical Value
  4. Risks
  5. Conclusion

I. Introduction
For over 4,000 years the cannabis plant (marijuana) had been used medicinally by a variety of cultures around the world. It was used as medicine in the United States until 1937 when a new tax fee led to its discontinued use. In 1972 marijuana was placed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that the government considered it to have "no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States."

Marijuana's schedule can be changed by Congress, the DEA, or the courts. Congress has voted on several bills to legalize the medical use of marijuana, however none of those bills were passed. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has five criteria for reclassifying marijuana's schedule, and it believes that marijuana has not met those criteria.

No federal court has ordered marijuana to be rescheduled. In June 2005 the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that federal laws against marijuana, including its medical use, are valid.

The Investigative New Drug (IND) program of the FDA was extended by court order in 1978 to permit over a dozen patients to receive and use government-grown marijuana. Although the program was closed to new patients in 1991, the four remaining patients each continue to receive about 320-360 marijuana cigarettes per month from the US government.

The government has authorized a few research studies into the health effects of medical marijuana. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana as a medicine, citing the fact that it has not gone through rigorous clinical testing like other new drugs must. Proponents state that marijuana is not a "new" drug, it should be "grandfathered" into legality, and it has not gone through FDA mandated testing because the government has blocked such efforts .

The pros and cons presented throughout this site reflect the numerous contentious issues involved in this debate. Read and decide for yourself whether marijuana should be a medical option.

Pro medical marijuana Con medical marijuana
  1. Many patients, physicians, medical organizations, and lawmakers argue that anecdotal evidence and numerous scientific peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated that marijuana does have an accepted medical use in treatment in the US
  2. They also believe that marijuana easily meets the FDA criteria over "whether a new product's benefits to users will outweigh its risks."
  3. Three different US government-funded studies have also shown that marijuana may have medical value -- the most recent being the 1999 $1 million Institute of Medicine (IOM) study.
  4. Since 1995 every vote or poll on medical marijuana was "pro" to medical marijuana, suggesting that the majority of Americans are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.
  1. The official US government position currently states marijuana has "no accepted medical use" and "has a high potential for abuse."
  2. Many patients, physicians, medical organizations, and lawmakers opposed to medical marijuana believe that because marijuana has not been FDA-approved it is too dangerous to use.
  3. Others say that legal alternatives such as Marinol (synthetic THC - the main active ingredient in marijuana) and various FDA-approved anti-emetics make the use of marijuana unnecessary.
  4. They also argue that marijuana can be addictive, that it leads to harder drug use, and that its use - medical or otherwise - sends the wrong message to children, that smoking marijuana injures the lungs, harms the immune system, damages the brain, interferes with fertility, and impairs driving ability.
II. Overview
A. Risks
Pro medical marijuana Con medical marijuana
Its medical value exceeds its risks.
The DEA's Administrative Judge Francis Young stated in 1988:
"In medical treatment 'safety' is a relative term. A drug deemed 'safe' for use in treating a life-threatening disease might be 'unsafe' if prescribed for a patient with a minor ailment [...]

Safety is measured against the consequences a patient would confront in the absence of therapy. The determination of 'safety' is made in terms of whether a drug's benefits outweigh its potential risks and the risks of permitting the disease to progress."
1988 Francis Young
Former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, MD, stated in 2002:
"...tobacco, through its direct physical effects, kills many thousands of people every year. So does alcohol. And it is easy to fatally overdose on alcohol, just as you can fatally overdose on prescription drugs, or even over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin or acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). I don't believe that anyone has ever died from a marijuana overdose."
2002 Joycelyn Elders
Marijuana has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, going back to ancient civilizations in Egypt, India and Africa. In all that time, up to and including the present day, there has never been a report of a fatality directly due to the consumption of marijuana.

In contrast, over 1,000 people die annually in the US from an overdose of our most common non-prescription drug, aspirin. In addition, many thousands of deaths result from legal prescription drugs.

In fact, Consumer Reports magazine stated in May 1997:
"Consumer Reports believes that, for patients with advanced AIDS and terminal cancer, the apparent benefits some derive from smoking marijuana outweigh any substantiated or even suspected risks. In the same spirit the FDA uses to hasten the approval of cancer drugs, federal laws should be relaxed in favor of states' rights to allow physicians to administer marijuana to their patients on a caring and compassionate basis."
May 1997 Consumer Reports
Denis Petro, MD, in his 1997 paper "Pharmacology and Toxicity of Cannabis," wrote:
"...the amount of smoked marijuana required to reach lethality is on the order of one to two thousand cigarettes. The physical impossibility of a fatal overdose using smoked cannabis is obvious."
1997 Denis Petro
Its risks are still unclear.

It's not compassionate to allow sick people to use dangerous drugs that might harm them. That's why the United States has an FDA research and approval process.

The FDA states in its Aug. 2004 website section titled "Protecting Consumers, Promoting Public Health":
"At the heart of all FDA's regulatory activities is a judgment about whether a new product's benefits to users will outweigh its risks. Science-based, efficient risk management allows the agency to provide the most health promotion and protection at the least cost to the public.

No regulated product is totally risk-free, so these judgments are important. FDA will allow a product to present more of a risk when its potential benefit is great -- especially for products used to treat serious, life-threatening conditions."
Aug. 2004 FDA
During 2002, marijuana was the second most frequently mentioned illicit drug (cocaine was the first) reported to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) by emergency departments (ED) nationwide.

According to DAWN, there were 119,474 marijuana ED mentions during the year, up from 110,512 in 2001. While marijuana ED mentions were statistically unchanged from 2001 to 2002, they have risen 164% since 1995 when there were 45,259 mentions and 24% since 2000 when there were 96,426 mentions. Approximately 16% of the marijuana ED mentions in 2002 involved patients ages 6-17, 31% involved 18-25 year-olds, 21% involved 26-34 year-olds, and 32% involved individuals 35 years of age and older.

DAWN also collects information on deaths involving drug abuse that were identified and submitted by 128 death investigation jurisdictions in 42 metropolitan areas across the United States. Cannabis ranked among the 10 most common drugs in 16 cities, including Detroit (74 deaths), Dallas (65), and Kansas City (63). Marijuana is very often reported in combination with other substances; in metropolitan areas that reported any marijuana in drug abuse deaths, an average of 79 percent of those deaths involved marijuana and at least one other substance.

It is known that marijuana contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals found in tabacco smoke. Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day. When you go to a pharmacy, you do not get leaves to burn; you haven't for 100 years. To do so is unscientific.

The American Medical Association recommended in June 2001 that marijuana be retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, signifying that it believes marijuana has no medical use in the United States.
B. Votes and Polls
There is little or no evidence the voters were hoodwinked by medical marijuana supporters. For example: Proposition 215 (passed in California in 1996) was the culmination of more than three years of legislative activity in Sacramento. The California legislature passed one resolution and two bills in 1993, 1994, and 1995 regarding medical marijuana.

The 1995 bill -- vetoed by then Gov. Pete Wilson -- became the basis for Prop. 215 (approved by 56% of the voters), which was written primarily by medical patients. Maryland's law was initiated by the state legislature and signed into law on May 22, 2003 by the state's Republican governor.

Americans overwhelmingly want medical marijuana to be legal, a desire which is in direct opposition to federal law and its actions. 34 states and Washington, D.C. -- representing over 70% of the US population -- have decriminalized (made it legal for medical use in a state) or are otherwise favorable to medical marijuana.

Votes and polls of American public opinion since 1975 have unceasingly showed that over 70% of Americans think medical marijuana should be allowed. There is therefore a considerable gap between what a majority of the American people want and our federal government's actions.
There are pockets of well-funded individuals and organizations in this country that want to pursue a political agenda by legalizing what they call "medical" marijuana. They have had a boost by funding slick ads and misleading the electorate in 8 states that hoodwinked the voters into believing false claims.

Many of these organizations supporting this effort have in fact been trying to legalize marijuana and other drugs, including heroin and LSD, for over 20 years. The leaders of these organizations are by and large not from the medical community.

Voters should not circumvent recognized scientific and medical processes by deciding what constitutes safe and effective medicine via the ballot box.

The established processes of the Food and Drug Administration are the foundation on which medicine is defined in this country; together, the medical and scientific communities have established procedures through which all drugs must pass before they can be considered safe, sound and effective "medicine." Marijuana has yet to be approved through this process.

There are numerous safer and more effective anti-nausea agents, including Marinol, Compazine, Tigan, Metaclopramide, Zofran and Kytril .
C. Legality
A May 2003 Maryland law, signed by conservative Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, sharply reduces the punishment for people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Legislation introduced by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to bar federal raids on medical-marijuana patients and providers received 152 votes, up from the 93 votes it received in 1995.

The US Supreme Court recently let stand a lower court ruling barring the US government from punishing doctors who recommend or prescribe medical marijuana.

Although the US Supreme Court ruled on June 6, 2005 in Raich v. Ashcroft that Congress' Commerce Clause authority includes the power to prohibit the local cultivation and use of marijuana in compliance with California law, it had no effect on state law:
"Today's [June 6, 2005] ruling does not overturn California law permitting the use of medical marijuana, but it does uphold a federal regulatory scheme that contradicts the will of California voters and limits the right of states to provide appropriate medical care for its citizens.

Although I am disappointed in the outcome of today's decision, legitimate medical marijuana patients in California must know that state and federal laws are no different today than they were yesterday."
June 6, 2005 California Attorney General
Drugs are not approved for medicine until there is a consensus of the national community of experts. At this time there is no consensus on this issue. There is no legitimate medical use whatsoever for marijuana.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent in charge Javier Pena stated in a July 28, 2005 article "Bush's War on Pot" published in Rolling Stone magazine:
"We can't disregard the federal law. The Supreme Court reiterates that we have the power to enforce the federal drug laws -- even if they are not popular. We're going to continue to do that."
July 28, 2005 DEA
The US Department of Justice stated in their Memorandum of Law in opposition to Plaintiffs-Appellants in Raich v. Ashcroft before US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit:
"Because, as we have shown, the Controlled Substances Act is a proper exercise of Congress' authority under Article I..., any challenge to that authority on the ground that it infringes on rights founded in state law and reserved by the Ninth Amendment (or Tenth Amendment) necessarily 'must fail.'"
Dec. 10, 2002 US Department of Justice
D. International
The US is increasingly alone in the world in prosecuting medical marijuana users. In the Netherlands cannabis is now available as a prescription drug at pharmacies.

Belgium allows the medical use of marijuana and is considering permitting citizens to grow small amounts.

The Australian and New Zealand governments are considering approving the medical use of marijuana.

Canada provides medical marijuana through its health-care program. Canada has jurisdiction over its own domestic affairs, and Canada's Constitution bars it from entering into an international agreement that violates its citizens' constitutional rights. Since a number of decisions have established the right of Canadians to use pot for medical uses, they can't be denied the drug by international treaties.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released resolutions that officially expressed the group's opposition to the propositions in Arizona and California to legalize marijuana.

The 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, says Kemal Kurspahic, spokesman for the UN's Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, does not allow marijuana for any medical use at this time.
"While using marijuana for medical purposes could not be excluded, the scientific research in several countries so far has not produced conclusive evidence of medical usefulness of marijuana. As long as there is no scientific evidence approved, for example, by the World Health Organization , marijuana remains listed among strictly controlled substances as stated in the convention."
Jan. 2002 United Nations
III. Medical Value
A. IOM Report
Pro medical marijuana Con medical marijuana
The 1999 IOM Report in part, recommends the use of smoked marijuana for some patients under certain conditions. Page 179 of that report reads:
"Recommendation: Short-term use of smoked marijuana (less than six months) for patients with debilitating symptoms (such as intractable pain or vomiting) must meet the following conditions:..."
and concludes on the same page:
"Until a nonsmoked rapid-onset cannibinoid drug delivery system becomes available, we acknowledge that there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting...

*[in those patients who have not responded to standard approved therapy]."

* [The above bracketed and bolded words were suggested to ProCon.org on Feb. 26, 2002 by John A. Benson, Jr., MD,
Co-Principal Investigator of the 1999 IOM report].
The 1999 IOM Report concluded that there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition.

The US DEA told ProCon.org in a Jan. 2, 2002 email:
"Any determination of a drug's valid medical use must be based on the best available science undertaken by medical professionals. The Institute of Medicine (under the National Academy of Sciences) conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 to assess the potential health benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition.

In addition, the effects of cannabinoids studied are generally modest, and in most cases, there are more effective medications currently available. For those reasons, the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication."
Jan. 2, 2002 US DEA
B. Medical Experts
Many physicians treating AIDS and 12% to 44% of clinical oncologists surveyed in two different polls, recommend smoked marijuana to some patients to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have found that patients with HIV infection taking protease inhibitors do not experience short-term adverse virologic effects from using cannabis.

The New York AIDS Coalition (NYAC) noted:
"Among physicians specializing in AIDS/HIV, there is a widespread acknowledgement that marijuana represents a significant treatment component for those who have advanced-state HIV symptoms, as well as for those with symptoms caused by the multiple-drug therapies used to control HIV."
The journal Nature Reviews: Cancer noted:
"...the active components of Cannabis sativa and their derivatives -- exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting and pain and by stimulating appetite. In addition, these compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumour cells in culture and animal models by modulating key cell-signalling pathways.

Cannabinoids are usually well tolerated, and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional chemotherapies."
Nature Reviews: Cancer
Kate Scannell, MD, wrote on Feb. 16, 2003 in the San Francisco Chronicle:
"From working with AIDS and cancer patients, I repeatedly saw how marijuana could ameliorate a patient's debilitating fatigue, restore appetite, diminish pain, remedy nausea, cure vomiting and curtail down-to-the-bone weight loss.

... almost every sick and dying patient I've ever known who's tried medical marijuana experienced a kinder death."
Feb. 16, 2003 Kate Scannell
Most oncologists do not support using crude marijuana. Only 12% of oncologists surveyed ever recommended marijuana to their patients.

Only 1% of those oncologists had recommended this usage more than 5 times per year.

Even before better drugs were available, the majority of oncologists had never recommended marijuana to even one patient.
This recommendation is not very significant since the "one patient" may have been a terminally ill marijuana addict. Yet the media portrayed this statistic as an overwhelming endorsement of marijuana as medicine! The majority of oncologists do not believe that marijuana is better than THC pills or other available medications.

Donald P. Tashkin, MD, in his article "Effects of Smoked Marijuana on the Lung and Its Immune Defenses: Implications for Medicinal Use in HIV-Infected Patients," published in the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2001, pp. 87-102, stated:
"Frequent marijuana use can cause airway injury, lung inflammation and impaired pulmonary defense against infection.

The major potential pulmonary consequences of habitual marijuana use of particular relevance to patients with AIDS is superimposed pulmonary infection [lung infections such as pneumonia], which could be life threatening in the seriously immonocompromised patient."
2001 Donald Tashkin
Barry Dworkin, MD, wrote on Sep. 9, 2003 in the Ottawa Citizen:
"There are too many unknown variables and known serious consequences that increase the risk of patient harm contravening the "do no harm" tenet of medical care.

Marijuana's legislated use as a prescription drug circumvents standard drug safety protocols and is not the standard of care.
There is a safer drug alternative for some patients that mimics THC's effects."
Sep. 9, 2003 Barry Dworkin
C. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The federal government's 1985 FDA approval of the drug dronabinol, branded as Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, the principal psychoactive component of marijuana, shows that the main chemical component of marijuana is medically beneficial.

Marinol, which does not work as well as marijuana for many patients, and costs more than medical marijuana purchased from a cannabis dispensary, unless the cost of Marinol is covered by their insurance.

The oral dose of Marinol is inappropriate to treat nausea, is poorly absorbed, takes 30-60 minutes to take effect, remains psychoactive for too many hours (8-12) and lacks the anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties (anti-seizure) of whole cannabis.

It makes no sense to prescribe a pill for vomiting and nausea. It is merely thrown up, negating the effort.
Any determination of a drug's valid medical use must be based on the best available science undertaken by medical professionals. Simply put, there is no scientific evidence that qualifies marijuana to be called medicine.

Further, there is no support in the medical literature that marijuana, or indeed any medicine, should be smoked as the preferred form of administration. The harms to health are simply too great to ignore.

A pharmaceutical product, Marinol, is widely available through prescription. It comes in the form of a pill and is also being studied by researchers for suitability via other delivery methods, such as an inhaler or patch. The active ingredient of Marinol is synthetic THC, which has been found to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy for cancer patients and to assist with loss of appetite with AIDS patients.
D. Medical Efficacy & Research
There is substantial medical evidence indicating the medical efficacy of marijuana. In a poll of the Deans of 126 US prestigious and accredited MD-granting medical schools, over 60% indicated that they believed physicians should have the legal right to recommend or prescribe marijuana to relieve symptoms.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated on their website as of 1/05:
"Marijuana looks promising enough to recommend that there be new controlled studies done."
Jan. 2005 NIH
Groups ranging from the American Cancer Society to Kaiser Permanente support access to or research on medical marijuana.

The New England Journal of Medicine has backed access to medical marijuana.

Lancet Neurology pointed out that marijuana had proved effective against pain in lab tests and could become "the aspirin of the 21st Century."

In the journal Brain (Vol. 126, No. 10, 2191-2202, October 2003) researchers at London's Institute of Neurology reported:
"In addition to symptom management, cannabis may also slow down the neurodegenerative processes that ultimately lead to chronic disability in multiple sclerosis and probably other diseases."
Oct. 2003 Brain
WebMD's July 2003 poll of its physician and nurse members found:
"Three out of four doctors -- and nine out of 10 nurses -- said they favored decriminalization of marijuana for medical uses."
July 2003 Web MD
The American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs reported in June 2001 to the AMA House of Delegates:
"Until such time as rapid-onset cannabinoid [marijuana] formulations are clinically available, our AMA affirms the appropriateness of compassionate use of marijuana and related cannabinoids in carefully controlled programs designed to provide symptomatic relief of nausea, vomiting, cachexia, anorexia, spasticity, acute or chronic pain, or other palliative effects.

Such compassionate use is appropriate when other approved medications provide inadequate relief or are not tolerated, and the protocols provide for physician oversight and a mechanism to assess treatment effectiveness."
June 2001 AMA
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has also conducted an extensive scientific and medical evaluation of marijuana as medicine and issued a finding in Jan. 2001 that marijuana (and the tetrahydrocannabinols) should remain as a Schedule I Controlled Substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

A Schedule I substance has "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" and "has a high potential for abuse."

HHS based its recommendation on many factors, including that the FDA has not approved a new drug application for marijuana and the fact that the known risks of marijuana use outweigh any potential benefits.

The approval of Marinol by the FDA in 1985 showed that synthetic THC was judged by the legal process used to approve medicines to be a safe and effective medicine for the treatment of nausea and vomiting. That is not the same thing as approving marijuana as a medicine.

In addition, GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK has developed a new cannabis-based medicine for pain. They state:
"Sativex, GW's lead product, is a whole plant medicinal cannabis extract containing Tetranabinex extract (tetrahydrocannabinol, 'THC') and Nabidiolex extract (cannabidiol, 'CBD') as its principal components.

The medicine is administered by means of a spray into the mouth."
Jan. 2005 GW Pharmaceuticals
The American Medical Association's (AMA) policy on Medical Marijuana, amended June 2001, stated in part:
"The AMA calls for further adequate and well-controlled studies of marijuana and related cannabinoids in patients who have serious conditions for which preclinical, anecdotal, or controlled evidence suggests possible efficacy and the application of such results to the understanding and treatment of disease.

The AMA recommends that marijuana be retained in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act pending the outcome of such studies."
June 2001 AMA
There is no possibility of approval of any plant as a medicine to treat any illness, now or ever, because the chemicals in whole plants, to say nothing of the many additional harmful ingredients in smoked marijuana, could not be approved as a medicine.
IV. Risks
A. Smoking
Pro medical marijuana Con medical marijuana
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has, since 1978, produced "a contamination-free source of cannabis material with consistent and predictable potency," pre-rolled into cigarettes prior to distribution to patients.

While some patients prefer to use marijuana by smoking, there are numerous other methods of delivery, including edible cannabis, vaporization, tinctures, oils, and teas.

Colin Blakemore, PhD and Leslie Iversen, PhD, wrote in an Aug. 6, 2001 editorial in UK's The Times:
"...there is currently no indisputable evidence for a link with cancer."
Aug. 6, 2001 Colin Blakemore Leslie Iversen
Smoked marijuana has no reliable dosage.

A study published in the June 1999 Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (JRCMB) (pages 1286-1293) noted:
"Marijuana smoking produces inflammation, edema, and cell injury in the tracheobronchial mucosa of smokers and may be a risk factor for lung cancer."
June 1999 JRCMB
The danger of second-hand smoke by marijuana smokers may be just as harmful as second-hand tobacco smoke.
B. Other Adverse Physiological Effects
Non-Smoking Risks: Are the other (non-smoking) adverse effects of marijuana enough to offset its benefits?

That question was answered on page 5 of the IOM report, as follows:
"Marijuana is not a completely benign substance. It is a powerful drug with a variety of effects. However, except for the harms associated with smoking, the adverse effects of marijuana use are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications."
1999 IOM Report
It is noteworthy that the 2002 drug reference book, The Complete Guide To Prescription & Nonprescription Drugs (pg. 334-335), shows the risks of marijuana and Marinol, other than the risks of smoking, are identical.
Marijuana is too impure to use as a medicine and the side effects (examples are dysphoria, tachycardia, motor and coordination impairment, and introduction of contaminants) are too great for the potential benefits of the maladies it is to be used for.

In medical studies, marijuana has been shown to cause a variety of health problems, including cancer, respiratory problems, loss of motor skills, and increased heart rate. Furthermore, marijuana can affect the immune system by impairing the ability of T-cells to fight off infections, demonstrating that marijuana can do more harm than good in people with already compromised immune systems.

In Jan. 2004 the head of psychiatry at the UK's Institute of Psychiatry told The [UK] Times that inner-city psychiatric services were nearing a crisis point, with up to 80% of all new psychotic cases reporting a history of cannabis use.
C. Societal Risks
Contrary to what some say, there is no scientific evidence that decriminalization increases marijuana use among youths.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, which tracks drug use and perceptions by age groups and state, indicates marijuana use has decreased among 12-17 year olds since 1995 and use is not higher among the same age group in decriminalized states than it is nationally.

Concurring, on page 102, the 1999 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report "Marijuana and Medicine" report cited a state-by-state comparison on the topic of marijuana use by youth, which stated:
"'Monitoring the Future,' the annual survey of values and life-styles of high school seniors, revealed that high school seniors in decriminalized states reported using no more marijuana than did their counterparts in states where marijuana was not decriminalized."

The IOM concluded on page 104:

"In summary, there is no evidence that the medical marijuana debate has altered adolescents' perceptions of the risks associated with marijuana use."
1999 IOM Report
Allowing the medical use of marijuana wouldn't even prevent the government from punishing recreational users. After interviewing 37 law-enforcement agencies, the US General Accountability Office (GAO) found in November, 2002 that the majority:
"...indicated that medical-marijuana laws has had little impact on their law-enforcement activities."
Nov. 2002 General Accountability Office
US Senior District Judge John L. Kane, Jr., (Colorado) wrote in an opinion editorial printed Apr. 27, 2002 in the Rocky Mountain News:
"In this darkest of comedies, the government hasn't the slightest notion what message our children are presently receiving. Perhaps we should send a message to our children about the causes of death in the United States.

We would have to tell them that tobacco is legal and, at 430,700 deaths per year, is the leading cause of substance-abuse deaths; that alcohol is legal and 110,600 die from it each year; that adverse reactions to legal prescription drugs cause 32,000 fatalities a year; that 30,500 commit suicide; 18,000 are homicide victims; and that 7,600 people die each year from taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.

Of course, we don't want to send them the wrong message that the total number of deaths caused by marijuana is zero."
Nov. 2002 John Kane
Among marijuana's most harmful consequences is its potential role in leading to the use of other illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.

In appealing the Ninth Circuit ruling to the US Supreme Court, Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson called the issue one:
"...of exceptional and continuing importance [because the decision] impairs the Executive's authority to enforce the law in an area vital to the public health and safety."
US Department of Justice
John Walters, Director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy has threatened Canada with intrusive border searches (for lenient marijuana laws), delaying traffic south:
"It is my job to protect Americans from dangerous threats....

Smoked marijuana damages the brain, heart, lungs, and immune system. It impairs learning and interferes with memory, perception, and judgment. Smoked marijuana contains cancer-causing compounds and has been implicated in a high percentage of automobile crashes and workplace accidents.

Marijuana now surpasses heroin as a reason for an emergency visit. No responsible public official can ignore these facts."
John Walters
The British Journal of Psychiatry noted:
"...weekly cannabis use marks a threshold for increased risk of later dependence, with selection of cannabis in preference to alcohol possibly indicating an early addiction process."
British Journal of Psychiatry
The US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), on their website published "Statement on Marijuana as Medicine," (updated Mar. 4, 2002) which stated:
"The federal government must protect public health by preserving the medical-scientific process for determining medicines.

We must also protect children from increased marijuana availability and use, preserve drug-free workplaces, and uphold federal law.

With drug use by young people increasing, America must not send incorrect information to our youth about the risks of marijuana.

The reduction -- not the promotion -- of illicit drugs is a national priority."
Mar. 4, 2002 ONDCP
V. Conclusion
Pro medical marijuana Con medical marijuana
Because many physicians believe that marijuana is the best available treatment for some of their patients, because marijuana produces no unacceptable risks to its users or the community, because it is half the price of the legal drug Marinol (which works less efficiently than marijuana for some patients) and because 70% of the US population wants it as a medical option, marijuana should be a medical option.

Even if it were clear that marijuana caused long term risks to such patients, the risks would be less relevant than immediate relief from suffering.

Kaiser Permanente wrote in 1997:
"Medical guidelines regarding the prudent use of marijuana should be established...

Unfortunately, clinical research on potential therapeutic uses for marijuana has been difficult to accomplish in the United States, despite reasonable evidence for the efficacy of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and marijuana as anti-emetic and anti-glaucoma agents and the suggestive evidence for their efficacy in the treatment of other medical conditions, including AIDS."
1997 Kaiser Permanente
The American Public Health Association (APHA) wrote in 1995 that it
"...urges the Administration and Congress to move expeditiously to make cannabis available as a legal medicine where shown to be safe and effective and to immediately allow access to therapeutic cannabis through the Investigational New Drug Program."
1995 APHA
The state voter initiatives undermine the FDA process of protecting the public and creates a medicine by popular vote. Medical use arguments garner public support because they appear harmless and play on the sympathies of the American public.

In truth, these issues are peripheral to a greater subversion providing an entry into legalization debates.

Proposals to fund medical marijuana research go through the same peer review process available to any other drug research.
With a limited amount of funds available, the government can only afford to support the most well-designed and promising studies. Medical marijuana has to stand in line with other research proposals, so that medicine can progress the most for society overall.

It is hoped that scientific input on this issue will take it out of the political arena and the state-based referenda process, and place it where it belongs: in the laboratory and in the hands of researchers and medical professionals working to help people in pain.
The California Narcotics Officer's Association (CNOA) noted:
"The overriding objective behind this [medical marijuana] movement is to allow a minority (less than five percent) of our society to get 'stoned' with impunity. This small minority is willing to put our citizens at risk from all the negative and disastrous effects caused to and by those who are intoxicated.

What we don't need in this society is more intoxicated people on our highways, in workplaces, schools, colleges, or in our homes."
1995 CNOA

Thanks to the following for their assistance: American Alliance for Med. Cannabis (Jay Cavanaugh, PhD), Americans For Medical Rights (Bill Zimmerman, PhD), White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (Kevin A. Sabet, Senior Speechwriter), California NORML (Dale Geiringer, JD), Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the Drug Reform Coordination Network (Dave Borden), and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (Rusty Payne, DEA Public Affairs).