Over the last three decades, the advocates of drug-legalization have employed a number of political and legal strategies to legitimize smoking marijuana. One of their strategies is to promote smoked marijuana as “medicine.” They provide misleading and inaccurate information that smoking marijuana can help ill people.

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not approve smoked marijuana as medicine. In an attempt to by-pass the FDA, the legalizers have attempted to legitimize smoking marijuana as medicine by trying to pass state ballot initiatives and statutes. This seriously threatens the FDA process of approving safe medicines. It creates an atmosphere of medicine by popular vote, rather than the rigorous scientific and medical process that all medicines must currently undergo.

The U.S. Supreme Court in the case of U.S. v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop., reviewed such a California ballot initiative and unanimously decided that smoked marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use at all.” In deciding that smoked crude marijuana is not a medicine, the court upheld the FDA drug approval process.

Before the development of modern pharmaceutical science, the field of medicine was fraught with potions. There were as many anecdotal stories about these potions as there are today about smoked marijuana. Many people were convinced that these potions helped them. However, many of these potions were absolutely useless, or conversely were harmful to unsuspecting ill people. Thus evolved our current FDA drug approval process. The FDA process has protected us for 100 years. It is dangerous to undermine it.

Smoked marijuana as medicine has also been rejected by the American Medical Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Opthamology and the American Cancer Society.  1  Recently, the federal Institute of Medicine also conducted research on this issue and they see “little future in smoked marijuana as a medicine.”   2   There are good reasons why they reject smoked marijuana.

The major reason to reject crude smoked marijuana is that numerous safe and effective FDA approved medicines are available for all the conditions that smoked marijuana supposedly helps. This includes a drug in liquid form that is derived from the marijuana plant and was approved by the FDA for treating nausea in cancer patients and wasting in AIDS patients. The drug’s generic name is dronabinol with the trade name of Marinol.   3

The respiratory damage associated with marijuana smoke speaks against inhaling marijuana as a medicine. Smoked marijuana is associated with higher concentrations of tar, carbon monoxide, and carcinogens than even cigarette smoke.  4

One of the earliest findings in marijuana research was the effect on the various bodily immune functions. Cellular immunity is impaired, pulmonary immunity is impaired, and the impaired ability to fight infection is now documented in humans. It is clear that use of smoked marijuana bears substantial health risks especially for people at high risk for infection and immune suppression such as AIDS and cancer chemotherapy patients.   5

Scientific literature shows that use of marijuana is a major risk factor in the development of addiction and drug use among our school children. The efforts to confuse the public about marijuana have contributed to the drop in school children’s perception of marijuana’s harm which results in marijuana and other drug use among school children. Of the nearly 182,000 kids in treatment today, 48% were admitted for abuse or addiction to marijuana while only 19.3% for alcohol and 2.9% for cocaine, 2.4% for methamphetamine and 2.3% for heroin. It is no coincidence that those states with medical marijuana initiatives have among the highest levels of drug use and drug addiction.  6

It is not compassionate to give marijuana cigarettes to sick people. They may mistakenly choose to smoke marijuana instead of using medicines that are truly effective. Crude smoked marijuana contains some 400 chemicals. Smoked marijuana, an impure and toxic substance, has no place in our medicine cabinets.


1. Bonner, R., Marijuana Rescheduling Petitions, 57 Federal Register 10499-10508; Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics v. DEA and NORML v. DEA, 15 F.3d 1131 (D.C. Cir 1994)

2. John A. Benson, Jr., Co-Principal Investigator, in releasing Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 1999.

3., 4, and 5. Eric Voth, M.D., FACP, “Medicinal Applications of Marijuana”, Institute on Global Drug Policy of the Drug-Free America Foundation, St. Petersburg, FL.

Taylor RD, Fergusson DM, Milne BJ, Harwood LJ, Moffitt TE, Sears MR, Poulton R. A longitudinal study of the effects of tobacco and cannabis exposure on lung function in young adults. Addiction 2002;97:1055-1061

6. Study Says Chronic Users’ Withdrawal From Marijuana Leads to Increases in Irritability, Anxiety, Physical Tension, Belmont, Mass., Nov. 27 (AScribe News) Published: November 27, 2000, Media Contact: Cynthia Lepore, McLean Hospital Phone: 617-855-2110

Compton, D.R., Dewey, W.L., and Martin, B.R., Cannabis dependence and tolerance production. Advances in Alcohol and Substance Abuse. l990:9:129-147.

Kaplan, H.B., Martin, S.S., Johnson, R.J., and Robbins, C.A., Escalation of marijuana use: Application of a general theory of deviant behavior. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 1986:27:44-61.

Schwartz, R.H., Marijuana: An Overview. Pediatric clinics of North America. 1987:34:305-317.

Clayton, R.R., and Leukefeld, C.G., The prevention of drug use among youth; implications of “legalization”. Journal of Primary Prevention. 1992:12:289-302.
Kaplan, H.B., Martin, S.S., Johnson, R.J., and Robbins, C.A., Escalation of marijuana use: Application of a general theory of deviant behavior. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 1986:27:44-61.

“Non-medical Marijuana: Rite of Passage or Russian Roulette?” July 1999 obtained at website WWW.CASACOLUMBIA.ORG/PUBLICATIONS

Van Os J, Bak M, Hanssen M, Bijl RV, De Graaf R, Verdous H. Cannabis use and psychosis: A longitudinal population-based study. American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;156:319-27