Twenty states have legalized medical marijuana, and in many of these, just about any ailment earns you a card allowing you access to it. A big reason for this is that doctors and researchers still have little understanding of how to best use pot medically. "There are only two types of people in the world: Those who think that cannabis will cure everything, and those who think that cannabis will cure nothing," says Dr. J.H. Atkinson, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. We offer a third kind of person: A handful of researchers who, in clinics around the country, conduct serious experiments on the potential benefits of this controversial drug. It's not surprising that the research is still quite preliminary. Marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug, the lack of government funding for research, and the existence of only one federal growing facility, in Mississippi, for all sanctioned medical marijuana research are just some of the major obstacles in the way of quality cannabis science. Even with this limited research, pot shows promise for some conditions, but not for others. We've outlined the facts about the better-known conditions.
Shows great potential for: PTSD
Another anecdote-rich use for medical marijuana is the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As with seizures, several people (often war veterans) have brought this potential application of pot to national attention. Again, researchers aren't giving this use the green light yet, but it has shown preliminary promise. A recent study from New York University (NYU) found that people with PTSD have more cannabinoid receptors in the brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. When activated by cannabis use, these receptors may reduce anxiety in people with PTSD while also helping them forget painful memories.
Credit: Jonathan Kantor / Getty Images