Is Marijuana a Wonder Drug?

Is Marijuana a Wonder Drug?

In This Article

Marijuana: the Good, the Bad + the Ugly

Marijuana is often viewed as a harmless bit of fun. Increasing legalization may be supporting this view for many. But does the science agree?

In 2013 and 2015, I wrote about my growing concerns regarding legalization of marijuana in America. My major concern is the well-established research that found significant and permanent risks to brain function and lower IQ when adolescents became regular users. In Colorado, within the first years of legalization, the ONLY demographic that significantly increased marijuana use is adolescents.1,2

MY TAKE: If by legalizing marijuana, our children are at greater risk of using a drug that causes permanent cognitive damage, it clearly should not be legal until we can protect this vulnerable demographic.

Read my marijuana articles here.

From 2002 to 2012, use of cannabis doubled in the US and the number of cases of cannabis use disorder also doubled.22 While tobacco and alcohol use is declining in US high schools, marijuana use is on the rise, as teenagers can easily think, “If it’s legal, it must be safe.”24

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New Marijuana Research

Studying marijuana has been a challenge for decades because it is federally classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has no accepted medical use. With legalization, the flood gates of research on marijuana are flowing.

More and more studies are being published with titles like Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Medical Marijuana Use,18 Positive and Negative Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids on Health,19 and How Harmful is Marijuana: Where There is Smoke, There’s Harm.20

Before I discuss the newly discovered health risks associated with marijuana use, let me list some of the researched benefits that have led to legalization:

Benefits of Marijuana

  • Used for pain, although new research debates pain-reducing effects.25
  • Acts as both an antipsychotic for some, but increases psychosis in others5
  • Anti-anxiety agent4
  • Benefits mood and sleep in cases of chronic pain6
  • Analgesia for chronic neuropathic pain3
  • Appetite stimulant in debilitating diseases (such as cancer and AIDS)3
  • Helps with Crohn’s Disease8
  • Used in treatment of multiple sclerosis3,9
  • Supports treatment of fibromyalgia7
  • Supports treatment of glaucoma10

In addition, some research published on potential benefits of marijuana for disease states is quite impressive. More research is ongoing to confirm these benefits.18,19

UCLA researcher Dr. David Plurad points out, “There is never going to be one answer for marijuana. It’s good for you, it’s bad for you.”11

Now for Some Bad News

A study published in March 2020 from Washington State University found more than 50% of study participants reported having experienced coughing fits, anxiety, and/or paranoia while using cannabis.12

“Interestingly, we didn’t find that quantity of use during a single session predicted very much in terms of whether or not a person was going to have a bad reaction,” lead researcher Carrie Cuttler said. “It was the people who smoke on a less frequent basis who tend to have these bad experiences more often.”15

The same study provided a list of adverse reactions to cannabis intoxication, included below, along with other risks.

Risks of Cannabis Use1,2,12-14,21-23

  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • coughing
  • dry mouth
  • memory problems
  • altered sense of perception/time
  • hallucinations
  • sadness/depression
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • lack of coordination
  • distortions of memories and false memories, even when abstinent and drug-free
  • memory deficits
  • risk of dependency
  • withdrawal symptoms
  • pregnancy issues
  • increased risk of testicular cancer
  • cognitive issues
  • lower IQ
  • Respiratory health concerns

Is Marijuana Too Strong?

YES! More than 90% of legal marijuana products in medical dispensaries are much stronger than what clinical studies have shown to be beneficial for chronic pain relief, according to a study published in March 2020.16

Studies show a THC content of 5% is sufficient to deliver the pain-relieving benefits and high consumers look for. (60%-80% of people who use medical marijuana use it for pain relief.) Today, it is common even for recreational marijuana to have levels as high as 30% THC.

Increasing concentrations of THC are a real concern. Studies show as THC levels go up, so does the risk of dependency. Over time, as with any drug, the body will build up a tolerance to higher levels of THC, requiring increased dosage and frequency of use to get the same high or pain relief.16,17

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Is Marijuana Addictive?

While this is a controversial issue, more and more studies suggest the addictive nature of marijuana on the brain and the intense withdrawal symptoms when trying to wean off of it.21-23

A Meta-Analysis Review

A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviewed the literature regarding marijuana safety pending its legalization. The conclusion was striking:

”The final analysis included 68 reviews. Evidence of harm was reported in 62 reviews for several mental health disorders, brain changes, cognitive outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, and testicular cancer. Inconclusive evidence was found for 20 outcomes (some mental health outcomes, other types of cancers and all-cause mortality). No evidence of harm was reported for 6 outcomes.

Harm was associated with most outcomes assessed. These results should be viewed with concern by physicians and policy-makers given the prevalence of use, the persistent reporting of a lack of recognition of marijuana as a possibly harmful substance and the emerging context of legalization for recreational use.

Due to the nature of marijuana function on the brain, death due to overdose is not possibleand marijuana has therefore been classified as a relatively safe drug, which it is in the short term. The safety profile of marijuana in the short term may have overshadowed some of the longer term health risks that appear to be associated with even moderate use.” 26

Interestingly, Canada went ahead with legalizing marijuana in October 2018. I look at marijuana legalization as perhaps a necessary evil, while remaining wishful that in the future we learn from our mistakes.

I wish governments would make it legal to do the research before we put drugs to a vote. 5G may be another example of putting the cart before the horse—or, shall we say, the technology before the research.

What do you think about the pros and cons of marijuana?

This article originally appeared in Elephant Journal.

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Dr. John


  11. Scientific American. Vol. 312. No. 2. Marijuana’s Medical Future by David Noonan

27 thoughts on “Is Marijuana a Wonder Drug?”

  1. I feel it would be wise to have dosage and % thc on products and use for over 21 only

    I tried a tiny part of a lozenge and was disfunctionsl and luckily did not have to drive home, Because I would have not been safe to do so

    However balanced cbd and low thc products for health and well-being I feel should be legal
    While ‘high’ use remains controlled or illegal

    • There is a new product called UNDOO that is made from a natural substance called olivetol, from lichen. It essentially replaces the THC on receptors and clears the head, leaving all the therapeutic benefits intact, as I understand it. It is quite useful in situations like what you describe Catherine.
      UNDOO is also is used as a tolerance reset so that you don’t need to keep increasing the dosage to get the desired benefits. This is important for people who use cannabis regularly to treat a chronic health concern.

  2. Hello, I am a 64 year old female that DID NOT use marijuana in the 70’s not even once. I developed chronic sacroiliac joint pain 5 yrs ago that will drive you to drink so to speak, and spent thousands of dollars on chiro, PT and personal trainers some of which did help. But nothing I did would give me lasting pain relief.
    Until I tried Medical Marijuana I was loosing hope. I live in PA so only medical is legal and that is all I do. There are terpenes in the plant that are very anti-inflamatory for ex: Beta Carophylline and all the different Pine terpenes, also Myrcene really works to help induce sleep. I personal don’t like the high feeling and that can be easily avoided by using a 1:1 ratio of cbd to thc.

    The only challenge I came across was using RSO (rick simpson oil) which is all THC. So for me I only put literally one drop (1/2 the size of a grain of rice) on a walnut and eat it…… I have tried everything you can image for sleep and this is the only thing that helps. I learned that cbd doesn’t help with sleep, took me a while to learn all this.

    I just wanted to share with you and your followers that if used responsibly it can be a life changer for pain relief and sleep. Thank you for allowing me to post my experience.

  3. I do agree about the benefits of marijuana, I’ve used it a couple of times for pain relief. It seems to take the pain away and also the memory of the injury. But I also have teenage sons and see what the legalization has meant to them. They believe it’s just like smoking. I have a hard time with it because I see it like alcohol. Ok to do it responsibly on the weekend but not an every night habit. I’ve had many discussions with my kids, If it has to be an everyday habit I think there is a problem.

  4. Thank you Doctor. As a Canadian I am now living with the legalization of marijuana in my country.
    I am not sure the benefits outweigh the risks.’That being said, my friend did do CBD oil instead of chemo and now is cancer free.
    I will not be going to the pit store anytime soon. Just not for me, especially smoking. I value my prana to much to abuse my body in that way.

  5. I’ve been using marijuana moderately for 3 years now and I am definitely beginning to feel the downside effects. Lower memory retention, anxiety when I’m in crowded place, confusion and what I’ve been noticing the most, I get easily distracted and find it very hard to focus.

    Thank you for the article. There’s little research on my country about the negative aspects due to the campaigns to legalize it.


  6. One of the biggest known benefits is that it helps seizure disorders. I’m very disappointed that this was not on the list. It should’ve been at the top. You failed to do your research and now I don’t trust your expertise. I’m on the colorado cleanse right now and this will be my last. If you don’t know about epilepsy, then this cleanse must be failed as well. You have proven to me that your knowledge base is narrow.

  7. Dr. D you are having a conversation that is ESSENTIAL as more states legalize. Growing up in the 1970’s I fell into the ‘benign addiction’ of daily marijuana use at 13. Because my brain was still growing crucial development in areas related to brain function was stifled and I’ve struggled all my life with issues while not directly related to MJ were exacerbated by chronic use.

    And now we want to tell people it’s safe. Not when the THC levels are so high as you stated. Even though I started as a teenager if I had to contend with what kids today do I would be in a psych ward!

    I hope legalization/legislation will keep it away from minors. I truly do so the medical & recreational aspects of MJ can be fully developed.

    Marijuana has a place in society in 2020.But let’s decide what that place IS.

  8. I also agree that government should allow study before legalization but unfortunately the pharmaceutical industry makes these decisions in the US, as the FDA is overrun by industry. And there is no money in a natural substance. But it is also silly to state it should not be legal because kids are harmed as the same can be said of cigarettes and alcohol.

  9. Smoking marijuana is not the only way to use it. I think the benefits of cooking with it, balanced dosing with CBD outweigh any of the risks listed above. I don’t know that I will ever smoke it. It changes the chemical reaction of the body to it.

  10. I have a family member in recovery, so I see addiction as a real issue with MJ! In addition to the addiction there were SIX hospitalizations for severe psychosis! This is not the pot I smoked in the 70’s! That’s for sure! The attitude that MJ is safe and all good is wrong and it has devastated my family! If folks would only realize the profit $$ large company’s and wealthy individuals will be making on legalization of this once herb, now overly-engineered, drug, I think they would question motive.

  11. I have a question for you Dr. D! Why does the human brain seem to want to get high or alter its state of consciousness? Is it a “stage of development” ie: teenagers? Or is it spiritual interest? This has bothered me as I have seen so many I love fall away due to drugs and alcohol.

    This is a real thing that I am seeing in my Ayurvedic practice. Chronic users of marijuana have “morning sickness” symptoms. I suspect the “estrogen like” chemicals of cannabis can accumulate in the liver and tissues reach a tipping point. This disrupts healthy hormone production and can cause symptoms like severe mood swings (anxiety and depression), nausea, vomiting, weight gain/loss, brain fog and other hormonal disruptions. My college age son who was over indulging started presenting with these symptoms- he polled his friends using cannabis and they said that nausea was the “new normal” and that if they didn’t smoke they would feel horrible. Unfortunately this endless loop of using cannabis for nausea is actually the cause of the nausea in the first place.

    • I never found nausea when doing this, and I smoked tons. The nausea feeling is more likely from emotions and the MJ being used to mask those emotions (improper use)

  13. Good Day,
    Drawing out the CBD part of Marijuana is the only thing I believe as necessary, medicinally. Otherwise it should be treated as a Sacred ritual herb and not recreationally. The real issue that people face, is that they treat it recreationally via smoking/ingesting, and then are un-prepared for facing certain inner ego’s and fears, as well as feeling it withdraw them from their surface struggles, the feeling which they can get attached to mentally – it is this feeling that when applied consistently will damage the mind.
    IF, if its is respected properly and treated Sacredly, all surface things will be dealt with before ingesting it. Then in the right conversational group, deep inner issues can be explored readily and easily. The participants must be willing to face feelings and emotions unfelt & be willing to make lasting changes. Best moments to ingest are around the dark moon.

    This comes from a lot of deeper experience with intermittently ingesting, after 5years smoking recreationally.

    That is my view.
    p.s. from what I have experienced, It connects people’s energy centers subtle layers when they share pipes/spliffs – this alone can be traumatizing and as such it is always best to try MJ with your own intake before sharing with others.
    It potentially connects you to everyone else on the planet who is smoking as well – we are all one, but smoking MJ Amplifies this massively – this is one of the worst experiences for those who deal with heavy repressed fears and are not aware and willing to deal with it.This is also why it should be avoided until it has become legal everywhere, because ingesting something with an illegal label can trigger heavy paranoia.

    I have more information from experiences.

    Many Blessings

    • I agree, we must differentiate between TCH and CBD oil, with very low TCH content. The legal border is TCH less, than 0,2 % in Hungary! I feel that this CD product can be beneficial to treat trigeminus neuralgia, therefor I use it.

  14. I experienced extreme mucus when smoking indica at night to help with sleep. I had a severe cough for months before I figured out what was really causing me problems. I quit cold turkey and the mucus started going away quickly. I believe i am allergic to it, or to smoking it. I didnt experience this reaction when doing a small amount of edible…

  15. Though I don’t indulge on a regular basis anymore, I prefer THC candies over smoking. For me, ingesting (versus inhaling) seems by-pass the induction of perceptively harmful effects (e.g., anxiety, loss of motivation, problems with memory, etc.).

    As with all substances from juice to food to herb, “Nothing is right for everyone. Everything is right for someone. Ayurveda is the science of finding what’s right for you.”

    Most likely there’s always going to be some people “abusing” some substance, be it a substance which is socially constructed as healthy for most or not. So is that even really the issue?

    Is the real issue teaching and encouraging others to have enough s/Self-respect and awareness to recognize, accept, and live by their own personal limits?…

    Thank you for letting me share. Be well.

  16. I hear you on potential downsides of marijuana — just because something is legal, we shouldn’t assume it’s totally beneficial for health. Nonetheless, I would note that when you discuss the relative merits of legalization versus criminalization, it would be worthwhile to compare the health effects of incarceration on youth. While I think it’s very worthwhile to discuss unexpected health effects of marijuana, particularly on young people, the topic is essentially meaningless if reduced to a legalization vs. criminalization comparison, that doesn’t talk about health effects of criminalization, given that mental, physical, and spiritual health will all be negatively affected by prosecution and incarceration.

  17. Thank you Doctor for having the integrity to speak truth into the popular myths and propaghamda about MJ. Having a young relative who suffered from thc induced phsychosis which changed his health and life for the past 20 years, I am put off by the silence on this issue. Additionally heavy using friends with compulsive vomitting problems and sexual dysfunction indicates to me that these problems are not as rare as we are led to believe. If we follow the money, we see the reason for such slant. In no way is this to sugest that jail and incarceration is preferrable. Just unfiltered truth please, and let people make their own INFORMED decisions.


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