Background: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the history of cannabis, its benefits, risks and the federal re-legalization of cannabis for medical use in the USA.
Methods: Thirty-six states have legalized cannabis as a medicinal substance. Cannabis is a Schedule I drug, an illegal and controlled substance, making research on the substance challenging. Both the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have called for the re-scheduling of marijuana, so that research can be conducted, its benefits and risks discovered.
Results: Data are demonstrating that medical marijuana may be beneficial as a step-down drug, decreasing the use of opioids and benzodiazepines, as well as deaths related to their overdose. Studies have indicated that cannabis is a low-risk substance, when compared to alcohol and opioids. There appear to be specific conditions in which cannabis provides relief of symptoms which no other medications can provide. There is also evidence of cannabis’s negative effects on the developing brain.
Conclusion: Cannabis should be rescheduled and researched, so that its risks and benefits can be identified. Its medicinal use should be monitored, and its availability protected in children, pregnant women and pets.