What Scientific Studies Say About Marijuana: PART 8

In part seven of our series on scientific studies on marijuana, we discussed a study that showed that symptoms of chemotherapy can be relieved using THC. This study occurred in 1975. Because of Gerald Ford’s decision to shut down federal funding for marijuana research in 1976, and Reagan’s attempts to purge research studies already done in colleges all around the US, it will be over two decades before another meaningful decision can be conducted.

A volunteer nurse’s assistant named Mary Jane Rathburn (yes, that Mary Jane), would provide marijuana-laced brownies to patients suffering from HIV and AIDS. She even made them herself! A man named Dr. Donald Abrams caught wind of the scheme. He was head of oncology for the San Francisco General Hospital. He became interested in the potential benefits of THC for relief of symptoms in AIDS patients.

Because the federal government had spent two decades abandoning future research into the benefits of THC — and destroying evidence of the benefits of THC in studies already completed — Abrams had a hell of time getting funding to do the research he wanted to do. But eventually he secured a grant from NIDA.

The subsequent studies he published showed that marijuana did little, if any, harm to the patient. One study explained that cannabis “did not hurt the immune system, did not increase viral load [in HIV patients], did not negatively interact with the protease inhibitors, and actually did facilitate increased caloric intake as well as weight gain.”

The number of benefits to prescribing marijuana to AIDS patients was obvious, but nearly 25 years later, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal to possess or distribute. Some states still do not prescribe medical marijuana. Most states still don’t allow residents to purchase marijuana for recreational use. 

The next study was conducted in 2006 and determined that cannabis does not cause lung cancer — but we’ll talk about that one in a future article.