Medical marijuana is the use of this drug to help treat symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. It's often used by people with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, and other conditions.
Is it legal?
It's 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 state laws that allow people with certain health problems to buy or grow a limited amount of marijuana for their own use. Some states also allow or license people to provide medical marijuana to those who need it.
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If you use medical marijuana to treat approved medical conditions, the federal government may not prosecute you. But there's no guarantee that they won't.
Medical marijuana laws are different 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 smoke, like cigarette smoke, can harm your lungs.
Marijuana can harm your memory, judgment, and ability to process information. That can affect your ability to do things like driving a car or studying.
There are other legal drugs that may work just as well, such as new kinds of pain and nausea medicines.
Other medical experts sometimes do recommend marijuana because:
It can provide pain relief when normal pain medicines don't work or have unwanted side effects.
It can improve appetite and relieve nausea in people who have cancer or AIDS.
It can decrease eye pressure in people with glaucoma.
Doctors can prescribe two legal alternatives: dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet). Both of these drugs contain a man-made form of THC, the main chemical in marijuana.
Nabilone is used to relieve nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Dronabinol can relieve this kind of nausea and vomiting too. It may also improve the appetite of people who have AIDS. Both drugs come in pill form.
Talk to your doctor if you think these medicines might help relieve your symptoms.