Jan 16, 2024 - Health

Weed could offer medical benefits, less risky than some drugs: federal review

Illustration of a marijuana leaf on a scale

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Marijuana may offer medical benefits and isn't as risky as other tightly controlled substances, according to a new federal scientific review.

Why it matters: The review, posted Friday evening, provides insight on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' recommendation that the Drug Enforcement Administration reclassify marijuana out of a category that includes heroin and LSD.

What they found: The public health risks posed by marijuana, the most frequently abused illicit drug, are lower compared with other abused drugs.

  • Still, there is "clear evidence" marijuana abuse produces harmful consequences, according to the review.
  • There is some "credible scientific support" for marijuana as a treatment for pain, anorexia and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Federal scientists didn't identify safety concerns with medical use of marijuana for such purposes.
  • Marijuana produces physical and psychological dependence in some, but those effects are likely limited.

Yes, but: Some drug experts said the scientific evidence for marijuana as a medicine isn't strong, and they note that increasingly strong products have been tied to higher rates of psychosis.

What's next: The DEA in the coming months is expected to announce a decision on marijuana rescheduling, which could be a boon for a cannabis industry that's struggled to do business with banks because of federal restrictions.

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