Drug Law

New Evidence Marijuana is Safe and Effective

| by Marijuana Policy Project

The International Association for Cannabis as Medicine just concluded its 5th Conference on Cannabinoids in Medicine in Cologne, Germany. The conference included significant new evidence that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine for certain conditions, some of which can be found in the conference abstracts, now available online.

Canadian researcher Mark Ware presented results of a yearlong safety study known as the COMPASS study, which compared 215 patients who used marijuana to manage chronic pain with comparable control patients who did not use marijuana. Ware and colleagues report “no difference in serious adverse events” between the two groups, concluding, “Cannabis use for chronic pain over one year is not associated with major changes in lung, endocrine, cognitive function or serious adverse events.”

A much-awaited study came from the University of California, San Francisco, where Donald Abrams and colleagues tested the effects of adding marijuana to the therapeutic regimen of chronic pain patients on long-term morphine or oxycodone therapy. Unfortunately, because the researchers were crunching numbers right up until the conference, the abstract doesn’t include a lot of details. But the study shows that marijuana did indeed add significant pain relief on top of that already provided by the narcotic painkillers. The scientists conclude, “Cannabinoids may augment the analgesic effects of opioids, allowing longer treatment at lower doses with fewer side effects.”

Meanwhile, British researchers added to the body of evidence indicating that marijuana can aid the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Two-hundred and seventy-nine patients received either a standardized cannabis extract, given orally, or a placebo. Patients receiving the extract were twice as likely to experience relief of muscle stiffness, and also reported relief of body pain, spasms, and sleep problems.