FAQ
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Marijuana as medicine
FAQ

The ACT website contains the answers to many Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the medical use of marijuana. Please review the following document and explore the ACT website before asking for additional information. We hope you'll find the answer to your questions. If not, please send us your question at ACT FAQ.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is marijuana legal for medical use?
What illnesses can marijuana treat?
Are there bibliographies available?
Some people receive legal marijuana from the federal government. How?
Can the Alliance help me find a doctor who will recommend marijuana?
Do you have to smoke marijuana for medicinal benefit?
How many states recognize marijuana's medical value?
What are the Cannabis Buyer's Clubs I've been hearing about?


Is marijuana legal for medical use?

No. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act and is defined as having "no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Possession of Schedule I drugs is illegal and the drugs in Schedule I are available for research purposes only.

State Laws

Many states have enacted laws which recognize marijuana's medical utility and have attempted to create federally approved research programs which would allow citizens to gain legal access to the drug. Sadly the federal government made these programs almost impossible to implement. Currently there are no state programs of legal access to marijuana for medical purposes.

In 1996, California and Arizona passed statewide voter initiatives that "legalize" marijuana for medical purposes in those states. The Arizona initiative was overturned by the state legislature. The California law has been severely tested by federal authorities who have threatened to arrest doctors who even discuss marijuana's medical use with their patients. Additionally, federal DEA agents have begun to arrest individuals operating cannabis buyer's clubs.

In short, despite the efforts of American citizens to legally procure marijuana for medical purposes the federal government has continuously thwarted all attempts. It is an incredible demonstration of governmental interference with the wishes of the people.

For more detail on the history of efforts to legalize medical access to marijuana please see An Overview of the Medical Marijuana Issue.


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What illnesses can marijuana treat?

Marijuana can treat a wide variety of illnesses and medical problems including glaucoma, the side-effects of cancer chemotherapy, muscular spasticity disorders, the "wasting syndrome" associated with AIDS, epilepsy, and more. For further details and bibliographies please see the Fact Sheets contained in this website.

Marijuana also has a distinguished history of medical use dating back more than 5,000 years. For information on the historical uses of marijuana as a medicine the Alliance recommends the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Hypertext Collection.

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Are there bibliographies available?

Yes. There are several bibliographies available at the Fact Sheet site.
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I've heard that eight people obtain marijuana for medical purposes from the federal government. How can someone apply for permission to use federal marijuana?

In 1991, the federal government closed the program that allowed the seriously ill to obtain legal access to marijuana. That program -- the Compassionate IND program -- was the only means by which individuals could obtain federal supplies. Twelve individuals were receiving supplies in 1991 and they were "grand fathered" when the program was closed. Four individuals -- all AIDS patients -- have died. The remaining eight continue to receive supplies.

The Compassionate IND program was closed because too many people were asking for access to medical marijuana supplies. In order for marijuana to be classified as a prohibited Schedule I drug it must not have "accepted medical use in treatment" in the United States. The federal government knew that hundreds of approved Compassionate INDs would quickly undermine that criteria and marijuana would have to be rescheduled. Rather than respond in an honest and open way, the federal government closed the Compassionate IND program for marijuana.

For further information on the closure of the Compassionate IND program  we recommend Marijuana Rx: The Patients' Fight for Medicinal Pot by Robert Randall and Alice O'Leary. 

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Can the Alliance help me find a doctor who will recommend marijuana?

No, the Alliance cannot make physician referrals.
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Do you have to smoke marijuana for medicinal benefit?

Smoking is the most effective means of using marijuana medically. Smoking, or inhalation, allows marijuana to enter the bloodstream quickly when blood passing through the lungs picks up the chemicals in marijuana and carries them throughout the body.

Many people don't like to smoke. Ingesting marijuana in baked goods or through a tea is another means of using marijuana medically. Because the drug is ingested, it takes longer for the body to access the chemicals in marijuana. This is particularly unfortunate for those who need immediate therapeutic relief such as cancer patients who experience nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy or epileptics having seizures.

For more information on the mechanics of using marijuana medically the Alliance recommends the "How to Use Medical Marijuana" website prepared by the New York organization Cures Not War. Another good source is the LA Buyer's Club website.

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How many states recognize marijuana's medical value?

For a complete list of states recognizing marijuana's medical value please see the Alliance Legislative Tally list.
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What are the Cannabis Buyer's Clubs I've been hearing about?

Cannabis Buyer's Clubs (CBC) provide marijuana to individuals with a medical need for the drug. They are illegal in most states. Proposition 215 -- passed in California -- protects the CBCs in that state.

CBCs are not new. In the past twenty years there have been numerous instances of individuals banding together to form medical marijuana "clubs" in order to ensure a continuing supply of the drug. What is new about the current CBCs is their brash nature. Many of these cannabis buyer's clubs are offshoots of the AIDS Buyer's Clubs started by ACT-UP in the 1980s to help AIDS patients obtain expensive and/or not yet approved medications.

Ironically the federal government is indirectly responsible for the current CBCs. Following the closure of the Compassionate IND program in 1991, many individuals were angry and frustrated with the federal government's constant refusal to help people medically obtain marijuana. The first CBCs were an open act of civil disobedience. Many local governments allowed the clubs to flourish since they knew that other efforts to legally resolve the medical marijuana crisis had failed.

Several CBCs have websites that can provide additional information about their activities and policies. You can find links to some of these organizations on our Links page.

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Last Updated on 12/02/99. Did we miss something? Please send your question to Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics.



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