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September 29, 1978

High interest in medical uses of marijuana and synthetic analogues

JAMA. 1978;240(14):1469-1470. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290140011001

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Rumors of the therapeutic potential of marijuana have a long history: Some archeologists believe the Scythians used cannabis (corroborating an account by Herodotus) and that the drug may have been used in northeast Asia during the neolithic period about 6,000 years ago. Its medical properties even were recorded in China's Pen Ts'oo Ching, the oldest known pharmacopoeia.

Several American scientists have studied Cannabis sativa and its therapeutically most promising constituent, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It has proved effective in reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma and shows considerable promise as an antiemetic agent, especially in patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. It may also find use as an antianxiety agent, though this is somewhat controversial.

But an increasingly popular notion among much of the biomedical community is that if a marijuana-like medication is ever marketed, it probably will be a synthetic analogue tailored to avoid some of the effects of the natural drug. The