Medicinal applications of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and marijuana

Ann Intern Med. 1997 May 15;126(10):791-8. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-126-10-199705150-00008.


The use of crude marijuana for herbal medicinal applications is now being widely discussed in both the medical and lay literature. Ballot initiatives in California and Arizona have recently made crude marijuana accessible to patients under certain circumstances. As medicinal applications of pure forms of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and crude marijuana are being considered, the most promising uses of any form of THC are to counteract the nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite. We evaluated the relevant research published between 1975 and 1996 on the medical applications, physical complications, and legal precedents for the use of pure THC or crude marijuana. Our review focused on the medical use of THC derivatives for nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy, glaucoma, stimulation of appetite, and spinal cord spasticity. Despite the toxicity of THC delivered in any form, evidence supports the selective use of pure THC preparations to treat nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and to stimulate appetite. The evidence does not support the reclassification of crude marijuana as a prescribable medicine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Appetite Stimulants / therapeutic use
  • Cannabis*
  • Dronabinol / adverse effects
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Glaucoma / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Muscle Spasticity / drug therapy
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Nausea / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / complications


  • Appetite Stimulants
  • Dronabinol