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Medicinal Cannabis
Institute Of Medicine Report
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Institute Of Medicine Report

In January 1997, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct a review of the scientific evidence to assess the potential health benefits and risks of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids. This scientific review was finally published in March 1999.

This two-year long inquiry concluded that cannabis and cannabinoids potentially have significant medical value. It is noteworthy that the study team "found substantial consensus among experts in the relevant disciplines on the scientific evidence about potential medical uses of marijuana."

A summary of this report is provided below. The full text of the report can be found by clicking here.


The IOM concluded that:

"Advances in cannabinoid science in the last 16 years have given rise to a wealth of new opportunities for the development of medically useful cannabinoid-based drugs. The accumulated data suggest a variety of indications, primarily pain relief, antiemesis, and appetite stimulation. For patients, such as those with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might thus offer broad spectrum relief not found in any other single medication.

Although marijuana smoke delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, it also delivers harmful substances, including many of those found in tobacco smoke. …The argument against the future of smoked marijuana for treating any condition is not that there is no reason to predict efficacy, but that there is risk. That risk could be overcome by the development of a non-smoked, rapid-onset delivery system for cannabinoid drugs."

They thus recommended:

"Clinical trials of cannabinoid drugs for symptom management should be conducted with the goal of developing rapid-onset, reliable, and safe delivery systems. Clinical trials of marijuana use for medical purposes should be conducted under the following limited circumstances: trials should be approved by institutional review boards; involve only short-term marijuana use (less than 6 months); be conducted in patients with conditions for which there is reasonable expectation of efficacy; and collect data about efficacy."