If Marijuana Is Medicine, Why Can't We Buy It in Pharmacies?

The popular explanation for medical marijuana dispensaries that have popped up in states from Washington to New York is that marijuana is a wonder drug — treating not just nausea and lack of appetite, but also pain, anxiety, epileptic seizures, and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.

The federal government refuses to allow people to use it, proponents say. 

The story, however, isn’t quite so simple.

Few doubt that the plant has at least a handful of valid medical uses. But research into those uses isn’t yet up to scientific snuff. Many U.S. studies are based on observations of patients who use marijuana on their own, meaning the dose and balance of active ingredients often aren’t standardized. 

If the claims for marijuana are true, then by rights it should be made available for medical use. But there isn’t a single FDA-approved drug in use that is as...

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