Marijuana and Cannabinoids
People have used marijuana, also called cannabis, for a variety of health conditions for at least 3,000 years. More recently, individual components of marijuana or similar synthetic substances have also been used for health purposes. These substances are called cannabinoids.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved marijuana (the plant) for treating any health problems. However, some states and the District of Columbia allow its use for certain health purposes. Whether marijuana has therapeutic benefits that outweigh its health risks is uncertain.
The FDA has approved three cannabinoids as drugs. In 2018, the agency approved Epidiolex (cannabidiol or CBD) oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy. This drug is derived from marijuana. The FDA has also approved the synthetic cannabinoids dronabinol and nabilone to treat nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in people who have already taken other medicines to treat these symptoms without good results. Dronabinol is also approved to treat loss of appetite and weight loss in people with AIDS. Dronabinol contains synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a component of marijuana, and nabilone contains a synthetic substance with a similar chemical structure. In 2016, the FDA approved Syndros, a liquid form of dronabinol.
The FDA has determined that it is not legal to sell products that contain THC or CBD as dietary supplements. It is also not legal to sell foods containing added THC or CBD in interstate commerce.
In January 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report on the health effects of marijuana and products derived from it. The report summarizes the current evidence on both therapeutic effects and harmful effects, recommends that research be done to develop a comprehensive understanding of the health effects of marijuana, and recommends that steps be taken to overcome regulatory barriers that may make it difficult to do research on marijuana’s health effects.
This page last modified October 25, 2018