On January 12, 2017 The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published one of the most comprehensive reports of recent research regarding the health effects of cannabis. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research produced nearly 100 conclusions based off scientific evidence, and in certain cases finding “conclusive or substantial evidence” of the therapeutic effects of cannabis. At the top of the list, the study found conclusive or substantial evidence that cannabinoids are effective for the treatment of chronic pain in adults. Chronic pain is a qualifying condition for New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program only if it’s a symptom of cancer or HIV/AIDS.
Although chronic pain is currently limited to these restrictions, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, lupus and Lyme disease are of the 45 conditions that the Medicinal Medical Review Panel is set to consider as additional qualifying conditions.
Other conditions that the Academies’ report found cannabis effective for are chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting and improving patient reported multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms.
The report also found moderate evidence of effective cannabinoid treatment for improving short-term sleep outcomes related to sleep apnea syndrome, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. Limited evidence showed cannabinoids to be effective for improving symptoms of Tourette syndrome, symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.
In terms of cancer, the report showed evidence suggesting that cannabis smoke doesn’t increase the risk for cancers that are often associated with tobacco use.
The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide objective guidance for policy makers through scientific evidence.
The issue of cannabis and health has been brushed aside by the National Academies since 1999, but substantial effort was put into this report with over 10,000 scientific abstracts reviewed in preparation.
Acknowledgements were made in the report that potential harm from cannabis may be noted related to risks for adolescents, pregnant women and those who operate motor vehicles shortly after ingesting cannabis. National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) says, “In each of these cases, these risks may be mitigated via marijuana regulation and the imposition of age restrictions in the marketplace.”
The committee that authored the report recommended more research to be done on the beneficial and harmful effects of cannabis, and emphasized the drug’s classification as a Schedule I substance being a barrier impeding such research.