How Much Do You Know About Medical Marijuana? Maybe Not as Much as You Think

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
July 20, 2020

medical marijuana

As of early 2020, 33 states legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes and another 11 states plus Washington, D.C. legalized it for recreational use. That’s a lot of people who can legally use Mary Jane. Of course, people use it for different reasons. 

Recreational users want to experience the hallmarks of a marijuana high -- relaxation and contentment. And many people use weed for medicinal purposes, hoping it will ease various conditions. 

But does marijuana do what people claim it does? There’s significant discrepancy between which conditions researchers claim marijuana can help alleviate and what patients believe, according to a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion

“Many people are needlessly using medical marijuana and raising their risk for cannabis-related health issues,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. 

Researchers from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo compared marijuana knowledge levels between users who were self-educated versus those who were physician-educated. They recruited almost 475 adults from diverse backgrounds who used cannabis frequently, if not daily. About 85 percent of participants were using marijuana for health or medical purposes. 

Participants were asked to report their sources of cannabis information and check off health conditions they thought cannabis alleviated and health conditions they thought cannabis caused. Researchers compared participant responses to the 2017 review by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) which analyzed more than 10,000 studies of the drug

Results showed that most study participants lacked: 

  • A connection between mainstream medical information and medicinal uses of marijuana. 
  • Awareness of potential marijuana risks such as diminished attention span, judgement and balance; possible increased risk for cancer and exacerbation of other addictions.
  • An understanding of what cannabis was effective for treating. Many users believed marijuana helps control cancer, depressive symptoms and epilepsy. However, The NASEM assessment found little to no evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids can treat these issues. (NASEM researches did find efficacy for pain relief and for synthetic cannabinoids used to treat people undergoing chemotherapy.)

“We need more public health initiatives to educate the public on pros and cons of medicinal cannabis,” says Kaminetsky. “For now, the best advice I can give to people is to consult your physician before using medical marijuana.”  

If you don’t have a doctor, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. MDVIP doctors have the time to help you work with you to help you find the most appropriate care for your conditions. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 


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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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