The marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa) and preparations derived from it have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It is likely that the therapeutic benefits of smoked marijuana are due to some combination of its more than 60 cannabinoids and 200-250 non-cannabinoid constituents. Several marijuana constituents, the carboxylic acid metabolites of tetrahydrocannabinol, and synthetic analogs are free of cannabimimetic central nervous system activity, do not produce behavioral changes in humans, and are effective antiinflammatory and analgesic agents. One cannabinoid acid in particular, ajulemic acid, has been studied extensively in in vitro systems and animal models of inflammation and immune responses. This commentary reviews a portion of the work done by investigators interested in separating the medicinal properties of marijuana from its psychoactive effects. Understanding the mechanisms of the therapeutic effects of nonpsychoactive cannabinoids should lead to development of safe effective treatment for several diseases, and may render moot the debate about "medical marijuana".
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.