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A major conversation in United States politics has been the topic of legalizing medical marijuana. One of the major points in the conversation on the legalization of medical marijuana is that marijuana is not yet an FDA-approved medicine (Abuse NI 2019). According to DrugFacts (2019), tedious clinical trials testing the positives and negatives of the medicine in question is required in order for the substance to become approved by the FDA. Marijuana has not yet gone through enough clinical trials to be eligible to become an FDA-approved medicine. Of course, it would have to be deemed a beneficial medicine to be approved.


According to Peter Grinspoon, MD, author of a Harvard Health Blog post titled Medical marijuana, there are two major chemicals in the marijuana plant. The two chemicals are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The most controversial of the two chemicals is THC, which has intoxicating properties. THC causes the “high” normally associated with marijuana use, which is the main reason for recreational use of marijuana. CBD is known to help relieve pain, anxiety, insomnia, and epilepsy as an extract from the marijuana plant. Also, CBD does not have any intoxicating properties. Aside from the makeup of marijuana, there are many different ways to consume it. The different forms in which you can consume marijuana are through smoked, vaporized, edibles (normally food baked with marijuana in it), oils, and concentrates. Through these different modes of consumption, you can use marijuana to treat symptoms of illness and chronic pain.


Across the United States, citizens have searched for marijuana in order to combat illness symptoms and chronic pain. When looking to relieve chronic pain, over 600,000 Americans have begun using marijuana (Harrar 2019). Other illnesses for which marijuana is used to fight symptoms are insomnia, depression, anxiety, PTSD, cancer pain, and multiple sclerosis. For insomnia, with the right amount of THC and CBD combined, it could relieve any pain causing insomnia, and help you fall asleep. For depression, anxiety, and PTSD, use of marijuana has not been officially proven to help, but surveys suggest that the use of medical marijuana has helped improve “in-the-moment” symptoms for people with these conditions (Harrar 2019). For multiple sclerosis (MS), patients seek out marijuana because the substance helps fight off muscle spasms which occur with MS. Marijuana is also effective when fighting off side-effects from cancer treatment and cancer pain. It helps combat loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, and nausea.


The researchers who conducted this study were responding to the growth of the medical marijuana industry and studies which have measured lower scores of IQs in adolescent marijuana users. Also, they were responding to another study which concluded that adolescent marijuana users had lower verbal memory than adult users (Crean et al. 2011). The researchers conducting this study wanted to investigate if medical marijuana is safe for adult users, as shown by the ages of their participants in the study.


For the study, a sample size of eleven members (five females and six males) were assembled to participate, with their ages ranging from thirty-two to seventy-four. Each participant was instructed to abstain from use of marijuana before the study, and once the study began, they were to receive marijuana treatment for a year. The participants took many tests to measure sleep, quality of life, general health assessments, and clinical state. They also had neuroimaging sessions. Throughout the year, they had check-ins at three and six months. The check-ins consisted of the participants taking the tests they had taken before the study began. Also, each patient had a monthly check-in phone call to determine the amount of medical marijuana and in what form they were consuming it. Even though each patient received marijuana at the same time, they opted for different forms of consumption. Eight of them opted for smoked or vaporized, and three opted for oils and concentrates, and edible products. After a year of treatment, the participants took the same cognitive tests as they took before the study began, and their scores were compared.


While comparing their final cognitive and executive function tests to their baseline test at the beginning of the study, there was an improvement in scores of the different tests they had to take. The people who conducted this study recorded improved times and scores in the Trail Making Test, Stroop Color Word Test, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, and Letter-number Sequencing. Now, this correlation doesn’t mean that receiving medical marijuana treatment will enhance your cognitive skills but shows that the use does not inhibit your cognitive skills. Additionally, the study showed participants also experienced lower levels of sleep disturbance and depression after the treatment.


The authors never mentioned many limitations and flaws in their study. First off, their study group is very small, only eleven people. If they had included more participants in the study, then there could have been a more accurate representation of the human population as a whole. Also, each patient was ingesting a different form of medical marijuana, as well as different amounts, so these variations could have affected the test scores. Then, they noted that their study only tested the affect that use of medical marijuana has on the executive functions of its users. Also, the authors mentioned that each of the participates used different modes of consumption for the marijuana. In future studies, they encouraged to test if the different modes of consumption have their own impact on cognitive functions and symptoms.


Marijuana use has been a hot topic in the political world, but the science world is beginning to prove its benefits when used medically. This study was not necessarily about its medical benefits, but rather proving the substance does not have a negative effect on the users’ cognitive and executive function. This is an important subject in the debate on whether medical marijuana should be legal. With the legalization of medical marijuana, patients could begin to turn away from addictive pain-relieving medications such as opioids. This could lead to less opioid-related deaths in society, which is a major problem in the world today.





Abuse NI on D. 2019 Jul 5. Marijuana as Medicine DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse. [accessed 2020 Aug 26].  


Crean, R. D., Crane, N. A., and Mason, B. J. (2011). An evidence based review of acute and long-term effects of cannabis use on

executive cognitive functionsJ. Addict. Med. 5, 1–doi:10.1097/ADM.0b013e31820c23fa

MD PG. 2018 Jan 15. Medical marijuana. Harvard Health Blog. [accessed 2020 Aug 26].


Medical Marijuana FAQ. WebMD. [accessed 2020 Sep 16].

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