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Is Marijuana Actually Medicinal?

Does marijuana actually have any health benefits or are potheads blowing smoke trying to justify their high? Host Myles Bess clears the smoke on medical marijuana research and gets into the weeds discussing some of the high hurdles researchers face when trying to study marijuana.

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ABOVE THE NOISE is a show that cuts through the hype and takes a deeper look at the science behind controversial and trending topics in the news. Hosted by Myles Bess and Shirin Ghaffary.


With the results of the 2016 election, use of medical marijuana is now approved in 28 states, plus Washington, D.C., but the plant itself is not approved as medicine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It still remains federally illegal. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug– which is a category reserved for the most dangerous drugs, drugs that do not show any medical benefit. This classification makes it difficult for researchers to study, because drugs in this category are very tightly regulated.

So we wanted to know, what does the science say?

— Are there actually any medical benefits to marijuana?
There’s emerging research indicating that marijuana does have some medical benefits, particularly when it comes to chronic pain management and multiple sclerosis.

— Is marijuana approved by the FDA?
The plant itself is not approved, but the FDA has approved two pills containing THC, a compound found in marijuana. These pills are used to treat nausea from chemotherapy and symptoms associated with AIDS.

— What makes marijuana medicinal?
Marijuana contains a bunch of compounds called cannabinoids. These compounds affect the endocannabinoid system in the body and impact things like pain perception, motor movement, memory and cognition.

To join the conversation, visit KQED Learning’s blog for students called Do Now:

Cannabinoids for Medical Use: A Systemic Review and Meta-analysis

Cannabinoid Receptors Where they Are and What They Do

Cannabis a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals

Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana

The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research:

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Funding for Above the Noise is provided in part by S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, David Bulfer and Kelly Pope, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation, The Koret Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Smart Family Foundation, The Vadasz Family Foundation and the members of KQED.