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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume I - General Orientation

Chapter 9 - Use of marijuana for therapeutic purposes 



The Committee is of the opinion that the potential therapeutic uses of marijuana have been sufficiently documented to permit its use for therapeutic purposes. It should be acknowledged that smoking marijuana can have harmful side effects, particularly for the respiratory system, and users should be informed accordingly. It should also be acknowledged that research is needed to further clarify the specific field of marijuana use and the long-term effects of marijuana.


Conclusions of Chapter 9

Therapeutic applications










Marijuana as a drug






Marijuana and synthetic compounds


















Therapeutic practices










      There are clear, though non-definitive indications of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana in the following conditions: analgesic for chronic pain, antispasm for multiple sclerosis, anticonvulsive for epilepsy, antiemetic for chemotherapy and appetite stimulant for cachexia.

      There are less clear indications regarding the effect of marijuana on glaucoma and other medical conditions.


      Marijuana has not been established as a drug through rigorous, controlled studies.

      The quality and effectiveness of marijuana, primarily smoked marijuana, have not been determined in clinical studies.


      There have been some studies of synthetic compounds, but the knowledge base is still too small to determine effectiveness and safety.

      Generally, the effects of smoked marijuana are more specific and occur faster than the effects of synthetic compounds.

      The absence of certain cannabinoids in synthetic compounds can lead to harmful side effects, such as panic attacks and cannabinoid psychoses.

      Smoked marijuana is potentially harmful to the respiratory system.

      People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes self-regulate their use depending on their physical condition and do not really seek the psychoactive effect

      People who smoke marijuana for therapeutic purposes prefer to have a choice as to methods of use.


      Measures should be taken to support and encourage the development of alternative practices, such as the establishment of compassion clubs.

      The practices of these organizations are in line with the therapeutic indications arising from clinical studies and meet the strict rules on quality and safety



      The studies that have already been approved by Health Canada must be conducted as quickly as possible.

      The qualities of the marijuana used in those studies must meet the standards of current practice in compassion clubs, not NIDA standards.

      The studies should focus on applications and the specific doses for various medical conditions.

      Health Canada should, at the earliest possible opportunity, undertake a clinical study in cooperation with Canadian compassion clubs.


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