Inhaled Marijuana ‘Clearly Has Medical Value’ For Hard to Treat Chronic Pain Conditions

[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for NORML’s free e-zine here.]

Inhaled cannabis reduces pain and improves sleep compared to placebo, and is well tolerated by patients with chronic neuropathy, according to clinical trial data published this week in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ).

Investigators at McGill University in Montreal assessed the efficacy of inhaled cannabis on pain intensity in 23 subjects with chronic post-traumatic or post-surgical neuropathic pain in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial. Participants in the study received a single inhalation of 25 mg of 9.4 percent herbal cannabis or placebo three times daily. All of the volunteers in the study suffered from refractory pain for which conventional therapies had proven ineffective.

Researchers reported: “[H]erbal cannabis … significantly reduced average pain scores compared with … cannabis placebo in adult participants. … We found significant improvement in measures of sleep quality and anxiety. … Our results support the claim that smoked cannabis reduces pain, improves mood, and helps sleep.

Speaking to Web MD online, the study’s lead researcher Mark Ware said: “We’ve shown again that cannabis is an analgesic. Clearly it has medical value.”

In February, investigators from the California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research summarized the results of four separate FDA ‘gold standard’ designed clinical trials demonstrating that inhaled marijuana was safe and effective for the treatment of neuropathy.

An estimated one to two percent of the population suffers from some form of neuropathic pain, which typically goes untreated by standard analgesics.

Listen to NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre and NORML Advisory Board member Lester Grinspoon discuss this trial, and other subjects related to the medical use of cannabis, on NPR’s The Diane Rehm show here.

53 thoughts

  1. I wonder how many redundant studies it will take to get the politicians to stop lieing to us? Its like asking how many it takes to screw in a lightbulb………..

  2. I recently heard that a very big reason the FDA refuse to see marijuana as medicine because there “have been no test concluding that inhaled marijuana” has proven to be an effective medicine … so we win right? You would hope that after a test like this we could get one done in the United States to prove the same facts. Of course my thoughts right now seem simple but I’m sure it’s because of my lack of understanding in the process(es) that needs to be done.

    Activism has taken a great turn towards medical marijuana though. I would really like to see a group of people like myself bringing back the name of cannabis through hemp. While cannabis is great when inhaled, it’s even better when it provides food, clothes, housing, medicine and much more to American families. Just throwin that one out there.

  3. As a member of the 1-2% group of folks suffering with this kind of constant pain, I just have a couple words to say about this research, which I have also verified at least several thousand times:

    NO DUH!


  4. Nerve damage in my left leg give me pain 8-10 range 24/7 that narcotics can’t touch. Pot gets it down to 1-3 Just saying.

  5. I sent Kerli a copy of the CMCR studies when they first came out and received an e-mail back from an aid at the ONDCP that they were aware of the clinical study regarding the efficacy of smoked marijuana but that the Drug Czar had issues with the study. No explanation of what issues but I feel the biggest issue was the possible shrinkage in his budget if cannabis were rescheduled and they lost control of the studies allowed.

  6. Two years ago I was run over by heavy machinery.
    Two years later and being released to go back to work, I had to stop smoking cannabis so I can land a decent job because wouldn’t you know it, thanks to Eliott Spitzer, NYS Workmans Comp doesnt pay forever anymore. well thats fine, I’m a proud man who enjoys the fruits of labor. But DAMB IT! I have been in unconsionable pain since I stopped smoking July 4th. In 2 months the pain in my body had progressed worse and worse as the cannibinoids disapear from my body. Consiquentially I have been injesting more oxycodone to take the edge off, but it does not take the pain away like cannabis did.

    I want to work
    I want to provide for my family
    I want to not hurt 24 hours a day
    Please, for the love of God, Legalize this stuff, it does work, better then any opiod I was ever prescribed.

  7. How many legitimate medical journals around the world have to report that medical cannabis is in fact medical and safe for practical use before our government will listen?

  8. The subject of illegal/legal cannabis is going to cause a civil war if our government isn’t careful. You can’t keep ignoring the people!

  9. I agree with Pual, we have many examples throughout American and world history that show if a government ignores it’s population the gears of revolution start to turn. Please don’t let this happen America.. write your appointed officials to help smooth this transition and stop the gears of revolution from turning before it is too late!!!

  10. its time to make a real push to educate as many people as possible in California and, just as importantly, the whole country. Prop 19 has made talking about marijuana almost a daily thing for a lot of people and that is VERY good. Everyone need to read as many books on marijuana as possible to get as much info as they can.

    Two GREAT selections:

    The Emperor Wears No Clothes: this book will bring you up to speed on the history of marijuana as well as marijuana prohibition. Lots of great material.

    Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink: This book has a lot of great facts as well and helps marijuana activists and hopefuls with breaking down the ignorance barrier with a well known legal drug, alcohol.

  11. You idiots, the gov knows Marijuana is medicine, thats exactly why they keep it in schedule I, so big pharma doesnt get bent over by pot and the hemp industry doesnt destroy the big companies, nevermind the drug, they are afraid of the industrial application of hemp, why the hell do people think they voted for the so called “Change” and right now the DEA is more aggresive than ever before, come on, connect the dots. The thing is… this is growing more and more each day it passes, if the gov doesnt respect Prop 19 legislation, this will explode in their faces, a critical mass is on the horizon.

  12. The experimentation process has been and is in effect. They know the truth but don’t think we’re afforded the right to know. If they keep telling their lies I guess no one will ever find out? WRONG! This whole cannabis issue has to do with far more than what some think. If they finally came to their senses and regulated cannabis would people be upset cause of the lies that accounted for a massive amount of damage over the past 70 years? I, for one in 350 millionth , would respect the gumption that it would take to do this and honor those who get this accomplished. Would it raise other questions about what we’ve been told to believe? Perhaps, but it would also show that our leaders are making an effort to regain the voice of truth.

    At this current juncture they see no point in making it legal because it keeps a strangle hold on the feeble minded and once they lose those people then you will see real movement. Even with the majority of the population approving of cannabis reform would it matter? Get out and vote!

    For you prohibs who push your agenda of hate and malice. The time has come to answer for the destruction that prohibition has enslaved on the souls of this planet. Will you be one who says, “This has gone on for far too long and needs to stop now!” Or will you continue to state that, “The truth is what we say it is!” With each passing day people are becoming more informed about cannabis and it’s positive effects as a commodity and if all signs point towards it’s effectiveness then now is the time to end this prohibition of cannabis.

  13. Anything that can help people to reduce pain and suffering should be made legal. Sure people can abuse the system but duh — everything can always be abused by someone who like to abuse it. Mean while the good guys who need it is being denied.

  14. It almost makes me wonder that ,thats why our govt. dont want us to use this plant because it will wipe out the health insurance companys because of so much the god givin plant does for US.

  15. By the way from what i hear an see Iowa is goin Independent…….i beleive that is a good thing, i also believe Ron Paul is independent do not know for sure

  16. I just might hav to frickin move to cali where FREEDOM FUKIN RINGS come Nov.4th Come on Cali u will be the influence but a good one if its out right legal for everyone.

  17. Only if one believes that there are absolutely no such things as written archives, scientific journals, organizational memory, or any sentient rational and logical human beings employed within our federal government could one draw the conclusion that incontrovertible proof doesn’t already exist that cannabis has real medical value, including inhaled cannabis.

    The USA federal government has tried in vain for more than 70 years to erase publicly available knowledge of both the medical and economic benefits of the cannabis plant — knowledge that reaches back in time 100’s of years to the Dawn of Enlightenment. At the same time, both government and certain special commercial interests alike have ramped up a crescendo of often contradictory and whimsically ludicrous propaganda meant to justify the continued prohibition of cannabis.

    Evidence in contradiction to that propaganda is already overwhelming. And the prohibition against cannabis is very much unlike the relatively short-lived prohibition against alcohol, which was primarily related to religious and temperance based moral judgements inflicted upon society as a whole. Instead, the full combined force of the government and special commercial interests have tried to employ fear, false religious objections, scientific gobbledegook, and draconian law enforcement tactics to suppress the truth about cannabis prohibition.

    This prohibition will end only when the combined voices of public sentiment, widespread knowledge of the insidious tools of propaganda employed against cannabis, and an overwhelming body of scientific data overrides the inertia of government and the lack of political will on the part of our elected representatives. Well, that, and perhaps public protests in the streets to rival those of the civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the 1960’s and early 1970s.

  18. As I skimmed through the study it seemed to show very modest but measurable positive results. They used small doses of cannabis from government sources (not the best quality by many reports)and they attained the various THC levels by mixing leaf with buds. I’m not sure why they required participants to hold the smoke in their lungs for 10 seconds..that’s really not necessary…but it’s not surprising that more reported headaches than highs.

    If studies would be allowed with truly good cannabis, the healing effects might be much clearer. Since there were positive results from even this study, maybe it will open the door to something less timid.

  19. Clay, you speak of budgets, WELL, did you ever consider the 209.9BILLION DOLLARS spent every year in the US on cancer treatment alone? I have used cannabis oil to cure skin cancer. The lesions were under treatment for 10 weeks. In the two years since treatment was completed there has been no sign of recurrance. I have several more lesions under treatment at this time. I have NO DOUBT that these lesions will vanish, and never return also. That is what they are afraid of. The lose of much of that income. The federal government, big pharmacuetical companies, what can we do with all that lobbiest money floating around OUR government? The only thing we have ever been able to do, FIRE the bastards, vote them out of office. Very soon now, we will get the chance, USE IT.

  20. I’m in 6-8 pain every day. Is it better for me to injest percocet, flexeril, soma, valium, etc. for my pain rather than smoke a little weed? Oh..that’s right, the drugs I mentioned are sold by pharmacutical companies and they in turn, are in bed with the lobbiests and big government. Sorry, my mistake.

  21. Thousands die every year because they seek “pain relief” from acetominophen, also known as Tylenol or Paracetamol. It is easy to misjudge the dosage, especially child dosages because the chemical is so toxic to the liver.

    Propaganda has blurred the issue to the point that it is necessary to keep repeating this: Cannabis is not harmless because nothing is harmless, not even water or oxygen. Everything can potentially harm us.

    It is transparently clear that Tylenol is still on store shelves instead of a competing oral capsule of Cannabis compounds because Cannabis prohibition destroys free market competition by removing it from the economy, as a deliberate choice by corporate forces. We usually call this fascism when it involves “other” countries, but not us, where we tell ourselves “we’re free” to the point of complacency.

  22. 1. A technical suggestion: while the McGill study states, “Participants in the study received a single inhalation of 25 mg of 9.4 percent herbal cannabis or placebo three times daily”, your illustration at the top shows an “Rx” sheet, a cannister, and some unbroken bud, which is visibly not ready for use in a 25-mg.-capacity one-hitter though possibly in a vaporizer. It might be more educational to show a bit of sifted (#16) herb, and maybe even a wire screen sifter.

    The fact that most of the population of users still seems to be unaware of the advantages of sifting herb before use is one cause of the persistence of the “traditional” habit of burning herb in rolled-up 500-mg. hot-burning paperdosages, destroying cannabinoids and causing dopy “drug effect” symptoms popularly blamed on cannabis and playing into the hands of prohibitionists.

    2. Comment for #17 cobb: your point about protecting big pharma is correct, what needs to be added is that their main way of doing it is to protect big tobackgo, which causes LUCRATIVE illnesses. You can check if I’m correct about this, but I read that one product, Lipitor, prescribed for (mostly $igarette-caused) high blood pressure, sold $46-bn. worth for Pf—- so far. And big tobackgo itself is a worldwide $400-bn./year empire based 94% on hot burning overdose 700-mg. $igarettes, which will collapse if cannabis legalization brings with it the unhindered personal right to possess a vaporizer, an e-cigarette or a 25-mg.-serving-size one-hitter, usable for cannabis, tobackgo, or whatever herb.

    3. Good news for Conservatives and Libertarians: the announcement in June of VAPOR RUSH, a cannabinoid e-cigarette (California), was followed August 25 by RUSH LIMBAUGH’s endorsement of an e-cigarette (Volcano Brand, Hawaii) in helping him control his smoking habit. Will Rush soon become a “maggot-infested dope-smokin’ hippie” with cannabinoid in his e-cig?

  23. been tokin the blessed righteous herb for over forty years.

    my son the reggae musician – world acclaimed – turned me on to vaporizing. being an old f@rt i was resistant but now am a convert.

    a few years back i started noticing a bit of a wheeze and throat irritation.

    been a year since i started vaping. after three months of vaping, no more wheeze or throat problems. the hi is super clean and better than a bong. not for everyone i guess.

    i no longer enjoy tokin a hoint and wonder why i once did ‘cept for the hi.

    this is NOT a paid ad.


  24. All i can say THIS IS AMERICA ?????…..Really?lol we gotta do this i wish there was a source i could get ahold of here, lets do it is all i gotta say

  25. I love Paul Armentano’s writings on cannabis’s medical efficacy, and I’ve been a supporter of NORML for more than a decade.

    But I have to admit that I’m a little bit confused about something I read. So, before I jump to any conclusions, could Paul or somebody from NORML explain the following CBS Health Blog article:

    (CBS Health Blog August 2, 2010 4:39 PM)

    Senate and Pot Brownies: Bill Could Double Trouble for Medical Marijuana Treats

    Medical marijuana users may not have the option of taking a spoonful of sugar with their medicine if a new Senate bill makes it through the House.

    Last Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would double the penalties for people who sell drug-infused sweets.

    The bill has garnered support from unexpected quarters. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says that “those who say marijuana is medicine had better be prepared to market it as such – and not as candy.”

    Further, says St. Pierre, those who sell pot-infused brownies, cookies and other “medical edibles,” or “medibles,” have reason to be worried, because, in his opinion, the bill is written broadly enough to include them.

    As written, the “Saving Kids From Dangerous Drug Act,” introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would increase penalties two-fold for those who make or sell marijuana that is:

    combined with a candy product;
    marketed or packaged to appear similar to a candy product; and
    modified by flavoring or coloring the controlled substance with the intent to distribute, dispense, or sell the controlled substance to a person under 18 years of age.”

    Medical edibles are a very significant part of the multi-billion dollar medical marijuana industry, says St.Pierre.

    And some people cross the line, especially in advertising, he says.

    Some alternative papers run ads for pot in four different ice-cream flavors. “It has a child-like appeal,” he says of one such ad. “I don’t think that was the notion of people who put out this ad, but that’s what it looks like.” [END OF CBS ARTICLE]

    So, is NORML really in support of doubling the penalties for people making all “medibles” or just “candy medibles with child appeal”? Or is this article misrepresenting NORML’S position on Sen. Feinstein’s misguided, hysterical “Saving Kids From Dangerous Drug Act.”

    Are there really that many documented incidents where minors have been nabbed with dispensary medibles to justify any new legislation at all?

    If NORML is trying to appear concerned about the silly myth that children are dropping in the streets from medibles, how about increasing — not doubling — the penalty for SELLING medibles or any other medicinal cannabis product to minors, provided the minor is not a legal medicinal cannabis patient?

    But doubling penalties for people who make any type of medibles, even if it is candy, sounds completely insane and completely counter to NORML’S mission.

    Please help clear this up.


    [Allen St. Pierre responds: The CBS blog is incorrect. NORML does not support the passage of Feinstein’s legislation. NORML does not support legislation or initiatives that increase penalties for cannabis. The CBS blogger conflated NORML’s support for children not having unauthorized access to cannabis into supporting the bill.]

  26. The bush of understanding.
    The shrub of emotion.
    Blissful branches.
    Morsel of thought.
    The plant of renown.

    Cannabis – is the most widely used subsaynce in the world. It is also the least harmfull substance in the world.

    So – I say we put it to a vote – and – any man that votes agin’ it is a traitor to his country.

  27. Feinstein’s bill is just stupid. She’s a parasite of a public servant, a burden on the system. Some minors take Cannabis to alleviate symptoms of ADHD and autism and some minor should have a right to prescriptions. And if they want to consume their medicine, they should be able to consume it in any way they please without nanny state paternalism telling them what their best interests are. That is their parents’ job, not the job of the government. Elected officials are public SERVants.

    Alcohol-Free Cannabis Tincture

    “and since we’re not smoking the cannabis, the prohibitionists’ No. 1 argument against medical cannabis is silenced thanks to this preparation.”

  28. This is why i advertise this. This is a nonprofit organization dispensary website that everybody should join and support so when New Jersey finally sets up regulations patients will have this place to go to.

    Cannabinol Haven
    providing medicine to rid the pain.

  29. i caanot believe i am hearing the THRUTH. i have known that for decades. ie 1973. WAKE UP you so called representatives of our countrys founding hemp farming fathers. yes george washington we know.

  30. Alan,

    Whew, what a relief! Thank you so much for clarifying that. I was beginning to wonder if the world was flat or something.

    Now I can help clarify this for some of my fellow medicinal cannabis patients who were also wondering.

    For someone who has definitely seen and heard the medical evidence and medical support for medicinal cannabis many times in the course of her long political career, Senator Feinstein is way out in left field. I’m sure she also has her panties in a bunch about smoked cannabis, and now, she’s hacking away at the alternative delivery systems for cannabis consumption. And of course she’s doing it all “to protect the children.”

    I guess she’s just another Grandstanding Dunce. With approx. 3/4ths of Americans supporting access to medicinal cannabis, it is alarming that she is deliberately working against the Will of the People.

    I appreciate you taking the time to set the record straight; that says a lot.


  31. I have seen almost one thousand people in the last year for evaluations. At least 80% of these people have some sort of chronic pain: migraine headache, back pain and muscle spasms stemming from accidents when they were injured, neuropathy and other problems. As a psychiatrist I see others suffering from anxiety/depession, difficulty focussing from ADD type symptoms, even some schizophrenic people.
    I don’t know about specific pain relief with inhaled marijuana, I hear more about being distracted from the attention paid to anything that hurts. Paying more attention to the more pleasant immediate experiences.
    Most people simply want to be able to relax and sleep better, not just get ‘high’.
    I prefer to urge everyone to try edibles, not smoke. Of course smoking anything is bad for our lungs.
    As we know smoking has an immediate effect, good for relief of the muscle spasms one takes home from work when the body cools off.
    Ingesting marijuana takes longer and lasts longer. Everybody I see that is accomplished in properly eating the products says that they feel relaxed and mellow as opposed to feeling ‘high’. Being able to sleep all night, stop tossing and turning from back pain, just feeling mellow.
    I encourage dispensaries to sell a months supply in order to provide the same concentration of THC and various cannaboids. This way one can do the experimenting to find the right amount of medication to create the ‘sneaking up’ effect without the unpleasant effect of doing too much, which is what happens to most first time users. People are able to function in their normal activities.

  32. I’m suffering from peripheral neuropathy. ITS HELL!!!
    Weed yes helps but in a strange way…..I feel nerves come alive like the compounds in its trigger feeling and i feel like i can move and use my arms and legs and feel the muscles and nerves trying to work where i typically have little to no feeling more like a shell or towel wrapped around the arms and trying to feel through the towel.some symptoms at times twitching, uncontrollable movements
    Legs can lock up and then be ok.
    anyways after the high feeling wears off the after effect through the following day seem to relax my body increase hunger and even make life livable and mellows the cognition where I can actually read and get around and deal with conversations. but honestly i wish i didn’t need any meds it becomes tiresome with the pain pills and mood swings and stomach sick from the pain pills its gonna be somewhat the same with the weed it becomes a straining necessity like gasoline I just want to be well. and not burn my hands because i lose feeling of heat until i see a blister or wonder why I’m cut….anyways yeah weed works how can anyone make a law over a plant that is rightfully mans to use. the local anti-weed am radio stations say its gonna pass prop19 …people on the street say it will pass and central valley towns continue to fight medical coops and surrounding law enforcement spread there fear but all they really fear is losing funding ….medical cards and being on a list is too much red tape extortion for those that have serious illnesses
    Growing weed in this county is asking for trouble with all the helicopters and small doj planes and then weed is still too valuable which would get stolen…here until the market is flooded with safe clean flowers after prop 19 then it might get clear understanding from the few nah Sayers and be finally excepted across the board.

  33. if i could give this illness to Feinstein and every single nah-sayer for a day they would beg for anything to stop this pain maybe let them suffer for a year see how quick they would give up and die or try some weed to find out the truth. This isn’t rocket science and can be provided safely through food…way safer than Tylenol damage and it actually proves to show results without the side effects from pain pills. When will people start doing whats right and have integrity. Before they act against human beings no matter what your job is.
    do extensive studies find cures. stop treating fellow Americans as if they aren’t Americans human beings
    Go overseas chase tribes through caves so those pipelines can get built.Go into some middle eastern hateful Arabs slum
    if you want to fight someone. they have plenty of vengeance from the never ending gang like war.
    I have no health insurance bad health and we could fix poor ill peoples problems by prop19 and people could just grow it like roses or tomatoes…without any extra fees or not knowing whats in the soil or if the plant is toxic from pesticides or harmful chemicals just in the privacy of your own home without any cost to the gov. Alot of Docs wont recommend weed because fear of losing there license. But they constantly provide meds that end up in huge law suits because the harm they cause to scores of people.
    cartels will move to something else you wont be out of work. They are fueled by a jealous greedy people.If not
    if we can’t provide Americans with constitutional rights then its time for the people the states to well regulate and restore this country state by state

  34. man its looking more and more that eyes are starting to open up about the healing benefits of weed. thank god. for years its helped me with depression and my wife with a rare bone disorder that causes her distress. hopefully legalization can start happening widespread over the US!

  35. Alright!!! This made me feel good guys… just hearing Arnold has slashed the penalties for some possession of weed… we’re heading in the right direction!!! Good news!…

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