Health & Wellness Substance Abuse

Medical Marijuana: Benefits versus Risks

Medical marijuana is legal in more than 15 states in the U.S. However, it remains controversial as state laws continue to run into conflict with federal regulations.

In California, for instance, federal prosecutors had launched an aggressive crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries that were allegedly just trying to rake in huge profits under the guise of complying with state law. Last year, 71 pot stores in Los Angeles County were targeted by federal authorities as part of the ongoing crackdown.

Benefits of Marijuana
The latest available statistics show there are approximately 1 to 1.5 million Americans who are legitimate medical marijuana patients. Albeit limited, previous studies have shown how cannabis can be of help to patients with certain debilitating conditions, such as cancer and AIDS/HIV. According to the National Cancer Institute, the potential benefits of medical marijuana for cancer patients include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep.

Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya, a California psychiatrist who helped make the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes legal in the state, began studying marijuana’s medicinal benefits in the 1960s. He held a list of over 200 ailments whose symptoms can be relieved by cannabis use. These symptoms include stuttering, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, writer’s cramp, poor appetite and some side effects of cancer treatment like nausea and vomiting, according to a 2007 New York Times report. Before he died from complications of cancer in 2007, he reportedly wrote marijuana prescriptions for nearly 9,000 patients.

Some marijuana proponents claim that the drug has anti-bacterial properties which inhibits tumor growth and helps in enlarging the airways, thereby easing the severity of asthma attacks. Others claim that marijuana provides therapeutic relief for patients with PTSD and multiple sclerosis, as well as to help control seizures and muscle spasms in people suffering from epilepsy and spinal cord injuries.

But despite all those claims, marijuana advocates are finding it hard to convince the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to re-classify marijuana from its current status. The DEA strongly stands firm on its position on marijuana, categorizing the drug as a Schedule I substance — which declares it has ” high potential for abuse, has no accepted medicinal value in treatment in the United States.”

Risks of Marijuana
One of the significant concerns about medical marijuana is the recommended dosage for patients. When doctors prescribe their patients with painkillers or other drugs, there are specific instructions on when to take the medicine, how much should be taken and for how long. Unfortunately, such detailed instructions are not available for patients prescribed with medical marijuana. That’s because there are several factors that influence the effects of marijuana to patients, such as the strain of cannabis the patient is using; how often the patient medicates; and how the marijuana was grown, harvested, and stored — to name a few.

When it comes to death rates associated with marijuana use, available data would say it’s safer than alcohol. A 2001 mortality data report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicated that while there had been several cases of death involving marijuana, the figure is at a much lower frequency than alcohol, cocaine, or heroin/morphine. But according to the FDA AERS report, the number of deaths caused by marijuana from 1997 to 2005 was 0. Similarly, a 2009 data from the indicated a 0 death toll from cannabis use.

The negative effects of marijuana have also often been associated with physical, social, behavioral, academics, and mental health of the users. Several studies suggested that marijuana use could trigger attacks of mental illnesses, such as  psychosis and schizophrenia. There were also studies linking marijuana use to impaired perception, judgment, thinking, memory and learning. A recent study from Duke University found that people who frequently use marijuana are at risk of  slowing down their IQ.


  1. Andrew

    Real risks of Marijuana: None.

    This article couldn’t be more false when it comes to the “risks/negatives”

    There aren’t any negatives with marijuana.

    ” indicated that while there had been several number of death cases involving marijuana” – And that. That’s the biggest lie on here. Marijuana has never killed anyone. I have heard arguements of “Well he had marijuana in his system when he crashed his car”. So what if he did? The MARIJUANA didnt kill him, it was the CRASH.

    The government and anti-pot advocates are running out of ideas and plans to keep it illegal. There has been multiple stories of “Kids being hospitilized from marijuana laced brownies”. Once again, the brownies may have had MJ in them, but it wasn’t what put them in the hospital. Legalize it already instead of making up fake statistics and other stories such as the ones I stated.

    The FDA needs to get there hands out of the marijuana sector, its just a plant that grows from the ground. It’s not altered like heroin or other drugs, so why the hell is it a schedule 1 with heroin? If you wanna keep marijuana in schedule 1, or any schedule for that matter, why don’t you put our rose bushes, trees, and even our front lawn in there as well? I mean, they grow straight from the ground, no altercations made by man, they must be harmful right?

  2. Andrew

    “The negative effects of marijuana have also often been associated with physical, social, behavioral, academics, and mental health of the users”

    Explains why Arnold won the Olympia 7 times after smoking
    Explains why our current president and many before him smoked marijuana
    Explains why musicians in the 70’s wrote so many good songs
    Explains why the valedictorian of my high school became the smartest one there

    You can’t sell us fake stats. Marijuana has been around forever, and now all of a sudden you’re throwing these stats at us? Uh-huh. I like how you danced around the death rate aswell. “there had been several cases of death involving marijuana”. Marijuana hasn’t killed anyone. Sure, they may have had some in there system at the time of death, but it didn’t cause the deaths. That’s like me having a few tic-tacs, and crashing my car. Must’ve been the Tic-Tac’s that killed me right? I mean, they were in my system…

    Another thing: Why do you keep deleteing this comment? Is it because I’m right and you can’t handle the truth?

  3. Lena

    Hi, Andrew. Thank you for your comments. You are obviously very passionate about marijuana legalization. Please check out my article here, which explains the commonly disputed side effects of smoking marijuana and the scientific studies behind them. Also be sure to read above how Copenhagen, Denmark is hoping to potentially legalize it.

  4. Itay Hope

    This is not completely true. There is always a risk with marijuana – if you fridge is empty YOUR FUCKED

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