The search for new ocular hypotensive agents represents a frontier of current eye research because blindness due to optic neuropathy occurs insidiously in 10% of all patients affected by glaucoma. Cannabinoids have been proposed to lower intraocular pressure by either central or peripheral effects but a specific mechanism for this action has never been elucidated. We recently demonstrated the presence of the central cannabinoid receptor (CB(1)) mRNA and protein in the human ciliary body. In the present study we show that the synthetic CB(1) receptor agonist, WIN 55212--2, applied topically at doses of 25 or 50 microg (n = 8), decreases the intraocular pressure of human glaucoma resistant to conventional therapies within the first 30 min (15 +/- 0.5% and 23 +/- 0.9%, respectively). A maximal reduction of 20 +/- 0.7% and 31 +/- 0.6%, respectively, is reached in the first 60 min. These data confirm that CB(1) receptors have direct involvement in the regulation of human intraocular pressure, and suggest that, among various classes of promising antiglaucoma agents, synthetic CB(1) receptor agonists should deserve further research and clinical development.