The cannabis plant and its biologically active constituents, known as cannabinoids, possess an impressive safety profile compared to other conventional therapeutic agents. According to the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, marijuana possesses an estimated dependence liability of less than ten percent. (Others have acknowledged that pot’s true dependence potential is likely even lower.) This percentage is approximately the same as anxiolytic drugs like Xanax and Valium and far lower than that of many other licit prescription drugs or recreational substances, like alcohol (15 percent) and tobacco (32 percent).
More than 100 controlled trials, involving thousands of subjects, have evaluated the safety and efficacy of cannabis and/or individual cannabinoids. Most recently, a review of FDA-approved pot trials conducted by various California Universities concluded, “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification (for cannabis) is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
Numerous medical and health organizations – such as the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, and the Epilepsy Foundation of America – support allowing qualified patients to legally access to cannabis therapy. Most practicing physicians do too. According to survey data released this year by WebMD/Medscape, nearly 70 percent of doctors, including over 80 percent of oncologists and hematologists, acknowledge the therapeutic qualities of cannabis and 56 percent agree that it should be a legal option for patients.