foundation of current knowledge on the potential benefits and dangers of marijuana-based medicines. The second section—Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8 through Chapter 9—focuses on specific diseases, including cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and a variety of movement and neurological disorders. In each case, the current state of knowledge regarding marijuana's effectiveness in treating symptoms of specific disorders is described and compared with conventional therapies. We explain why some marijuana-related studies that may seem convincing are actually inconclusive and what evidence is needed to support various claims about marijuana's harms or benefits. Finally, although this is primarily a book about science, two chapters in Part III are devoted to related issues: the economic prospects for developing pharmaceuticals from marijuana (Chapter 10) and the complex legal environment surrounding the medical use of marijuana (Chapter 11). Much of the information that is included about the legal status of marijuana did not appear in the IOM report but was added here to place the science of medical marijuana in a broader social context.

In addition to providing a critical and up-to-date summary of scientific knowledge that pertains to the medical use of whole marijuana, chemicals derived from the marijuana plant are also discussed, as well as synthetic compounds that represent “improved” versions of marijuana derivatives. This information can help readers evaluate future research news and participate in the ongoing public discussion of medical marijuana.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that science is but one aspect of the medical marijuana controversy. Ultimately, drug laws must address moral, social, and political concerns as well as science and medicine. Although we present scientific evidence related to the social impact of medical marijuana, the intent is not to prescribe policy but to encourage continued debate based on a firm understanding of scientific knowledge. As you read, please bear this in mind, along with the following caveats:

  • Neither this book, nor the IOM study on which it is based, is intended to promote specific social policies. Both were designed to provide an objective scientific analysis of marijuana's current and potential usefulness in treating a variety of symptoms.

  • In no way do we wish to suggest that patients should, un-

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