Applied Evidence

Medical Cannabis: A guide to the clinical and legal landscapes

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The primary conclusion of the meta-analysis is that further study is required because little evidence exists on the effects and the adverse events of plant-based Cannabis.

HIV infection. Data on Cannabis for the treatment of refractory neuropathy and appetite stimulation in HIV infection is mixed.10,11 Smoked Cannabis for medically refractory neuropathy was examined in several trials:

  • In a randomized crossover trial, researchers found statistically significant subjective improvement in neuropathic pain, with minimal intolerable adverse effects, in the 28 HIV-infected participants who completed the trial.11
  • In another study,Cannabis ingested in various forms resulted in appetite stimulation in late-stage HIV infection but did not produce statistically significant weight gain.10

Pediatric epilepsy. Research on pediatric patients who have epilepsy characterized by refractory seizures has shown that the impact of Cannabis on their disease is promising. Specifically, CBD has shown tremendous potential impact: Patients experienced a statistically significant reduction in the number of seizures.9 In 2018, the FDA approved the first plant-based derivative of Cannabis: an oral cannabidiol (marketed as Epidiolex [Greenwich Biosciences, Inc.]) for the treatment of intractable seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, rare and severe forms of epilepsy. Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified drug substance derived from marijuana.


Mr. S’s diagnosis of cancer is broadly included in the list of Cannabis-qualifying illnesses in all 34 states that certify patients for medical Cannabis. He qualifies both because (1) he is a cancer patient and (2) he has not found relief from chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting with several targeted therapies, including 5-hydroxytryptamine-receptor antagonists, steroids, and antipsychotics. Evidence supports CB1 and CB2 as potential targets for antiemetic treatment.

Research suggests that the use of Cannabis for pediatric patients with refractory seizures is promising.

Given Mr. S’s consequent anorexia, his frustration with taking an increasing number of medications, and possible adverse effects of additional therapy, Cannabis is a reasonable course of action to treat nausea and vomiting. He would be able to use oral tincture or vaporization of oil to further limit his pill burden—likely, with a THC:CBD ratio of 1:1 or similar.

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