New conclusions come from pot report

NEW YORK (AP) — It can almost certainly ease chronic pain and might help some people sleep, but it may also raise the risk of getting schizophrenia and trigger heart attacks.

Those are among the conclusions about marijuana reached by a federal advisory panel in a report released Thursday.

The experts also called for a national effort to learn more about marijuana and its chemical cousins, including similarly acting compounds called cannabinoids.

The current lack of scientific information “poses a public health risk,” said the report, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Patients, health care professionals and policy makers need more evidence to make sound decisions, it said.

A federal focus on paying for studies of potential harms has also hampered research into possible health benefits, the report said. The range of marijuana products available for study has also been restricted, although the government is expanding the number of approved suppliers.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for a variety of medical uses, and eight of those states plus the district have also legalized it for recreational use.

The report lists nearly 100 conclusions about marijuana and its similarly acting chemical cousins, drawing on studies published since 1999. Committee members cautioned that most conclusions are based on statistical links between use and health, rather than direct demonstrations of cause and effect.

The review found strong evidence that marijuana can treat chronic pain in adults and that similar compounds ease nausea from chemotherapy, with varying degrees of evidence for treating muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis.