Cannabinoids and the eye

Surv Ophthalmol. 2021 Mar-Apr;66(2):327-345. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2020.07.002. Epub 2020 Aug 4.


Cannabis ranks among the most commonly used psychotropic drugs worldwide. In the context of the global movement toward more widespread legalisation, there is a growing need toward developing a better understanding of the physiological and pathological effects. We provide an overview of the current evidence on the effects of cannabinoids on the eye. Of the identified cannabinoids, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol is recognized to be the primary psychotropic compound, and cannabidiol is the predominant nonpsychoactive ingredient. Despite demonstrating ocular hypotensive and neuroprotective activity, the use of cannabinoids as a treatment for glaucoma is limited by a large number of potential systemic and ophthalmic side effects. Anterior segment effects of cannabinoids are complex, with preliminary evidence showing decreased corneal endothelial density in chronic cannabinoid users. Experiments in rodents, however, have shown potential promise for the treatment of ocular surface injury via antinociceptive and antiinflammatory effects. Electroretinography studies demonstrating adverse effects on photoreceptor, bipolar, and ganglion cell function suggest links between cannabis and neuroretinal dysfunction. Neuro-ophthalmic associations include ocular motility deficits and decrements in smooth pursuit and saccadic eye movements, although potential therapeutic effects for congenital and acquired nystagmus have been observed.

Keywords: cannabis; cornea; eyelid; glaucoma; intraocular pressure; marijuana; optic nerve; retina.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol* / pharmacology
  • Cannabidiol* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoids* / adverse effects
  • Cannabis*
  • Cornea
  • Glaucoma* / drug therapy
  • Humans


  • Cannabinoids
  • Cannabidiol