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evaluate the biological and medical factors that should be taken into account in making those judgments.

How This Study Was Conducted

Information was gathered through scientific workshops, site visits, analysis of the relevant scientific literature, and extensive consultation with biomedical and social scientists. The three 2-day workshops—in Irvine, California; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Washington, D.C.—were open to the public and included scientific presentations and reports, mostly from patients and their families, about their experiences with and perspectives on the medical use of marijuana. Scientific experts in various fields were selected to talk about the latest research on marijuana, cannabinoids, and related topics (listed in Appendix B). Selection of the experts was based on recommendations by their peers, who ranked them among the most accomplished scientists and the most knowledgeable about marijuana and cannabinoids in their own fields. In addition, advocates for (John Morgan) and against (Eric A. Voth) the medical use of marijuana were invited to present scientific evidence in support of their positions.

Information presented at the scientific workshops was supplemented by analysis of the scientific literature and evaluating the methods used in various studies and the validity of the authors' conclusions. Different kinds of clinical studies are useful in different ways: results of a controlled double-blind study with adequate sample sizes can be expected to apply to the general population from which study subjects were drawn; an isolated case report can suggest further studies but cannot be presumed to be broadly applicable; and survey data can be highly informative but are generally limited by the need to rely on self-reports of drug use and on unconfirmed medical diagnoses. This report relies mainly on the most relevant and methodologically rigorous studies available and treats the results of more limited studies cautiously. In addition, study results are presented in such a way as to allow thoughtful readers to judge the results themselves.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) appointed a panel of nine experts to advise the study team on technical issues. These included neurology and the treatment of pain (Howard Fields); regulation of prescription drugs (J. Richard Crout); AIDS wasting and clinical trials (Judith Feinberg); treatment and pathology of multiple sclerosis (Timothy Vollmer); drug dependence among adolescents (Thomas Crowley); varieties of drug dependence (Dorothy Hatsukami); internal medicine, health care delivery, and clinical epidemiology (Eric B. Larson); cannabinoids and marijuana pharmacology (Billy R. Martin); and cannabinoid neuroscience (Steven R. Childers).

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