The marijuana plant has compounds that may help symptoms for some health problems.1 While more states are making it legal to use the plant as medicine for certain conditions, scientists are still learning the ways that marijuana may help or harm people. For example, smoked marijuana may damage your lungs and respiratory system.1
Certain compounds in marijuana products may affect your brain or body in harmful ways. In addition, no federal standards have been implemented for the quality and safety of marijuana products sold in state-based medical marijuana dispensaries. These products are not approved by the FDA.
Research on the medical use of marijuana is still in early stages, and much remains unknown about the plant and how it interacts with the body. Currently, the FDA has approved one plant-based marijuana drug (Epidiolex), which contains purified cannabidiol (CBD) from the marijuana plant. The drug is approved for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome) as well as seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to form in many parts of the body.
The FDA has also approved two medicines (dronabinol [brand names: Marinol and Syndros] and nabilone [brand name: Cesamet]) made from a synthetic or lab-made chemical that mimics tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These medicines are used to treat nausea in patients with cancer who are having chemotherapy treatment and to increase appetite in individuals with AIDS who do not feel like eating (wasting syndrome).