Marijuana is a drug that is made up of the leaves, flowers, and buds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Medical marijuana is the use of this drug to help treat symptoms like pain, nausea, and lack of appetite. It may be used by people who have conditions like cancer, AIDS, or multiple sclerosis.
In the United States, it is against federal law to possess, sell, give away, or grow marijuana for any purpose. It's also against federal law for doctors to prescribe this drug. But more than a dozen states have passed laws that allow people with certain health problems to buy or grow marijuana for their own use. Some states also allow or license people to provide medical marijuana to those who need it.
When Debra Yergen switched jobs, she got the cold shoulder from people she considered close friends.
Yergen had spent three years working at a community hospital in Washington state, but when she started her new position as director of communications for a regional medical center that competed with the hospital, her old work buddies disappeared -- presumably because she left for the competition.
"At first, I thought my friends were just busy," Yergen, now 40, says. "But when the holidays rolled...
If you use medical marijuana to treat an approved medical condition, the federal government might not prosecute you. But there's no guarantee.
Medical marijuana laws vary from state to state. If you think you might want to try medical marijuana, talk to your doctor. You can also call your state department of health or health services to learn more about the laws in your state.
What do the experts say?
The medical use of marijuana has been studied for decades. But experts still don't agree on how safe it is or how well it works.
Some medical experts don't recommend marijuana because:
It hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Marijuana may impair your memory, judgment, and coordination. It can increase your risk of being in a car crash.