Cannabis (also called marijuana, hemp, and weed) contains chemicals that can affect the body in ways that may help treat some diseases. The FDA has approved a liquid medicine with a purified form of the chemical cannabidiol (Epidolex) to treat two rare kinds of severe epilepsy. It’s also approved as a pill (Sativex) and a nasal spray to treat MS spasticity.
Medicinal marijuana is used to relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), cancer, chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy or other treatments, loss of appetite, and seizures. Some states have laws that allow medicinal marijuana to treat other conditions, including glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C, and AIDS.
It’s difficult to judge whether medical marijuana actually helps people with the conditions that are listed in state laws, because of a federal ban on collecting government-supported data. Observational studies, in which patients report their experiences, can look promising. And some studies of animals and clumps of cells in a lab may seem promising, too.
Talk to your healthcare practitioner about using medicinal marijuana if you have one of the conditions allowed under your state’s law. Although your practitioner can’t prescribe it for you, they may write a recommendation or certify you as a patient. Your certification will include a registry ID that you can use to buy medical cannabis at a dispensary or grow your own plants. You can also designate a caregiver who will be able to administer your medicine at a dispensary. medical marijuana