The Missoula Study

The Missoula Chronic Clinical Cannabis Use Study examined the overall health status of four of the seven surviving patients in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program of the Federal Drug Administration. The patients had used "a known dosage of a standardized, heat-sterilized quality-controlled supply of low-grade marijuana for 11 to 27 years."

The study, performed by researchers associated with the Montana Neurobehavioral Specialists in Missoula and others at the Univ. of Montana and the Univ. of South Florida, concluded: "Results indicate clinical effectiveness in these patients in treating glaucoma, chronic musculoskeletal pain, spasm and nausea, and spasticity of muscular sclerosis. All four patients are stable with respect to their chronic conditions, and are taking many fewer standard pharmaceuticals than previously." The study did note mild changes in lung function in two of the patients, but no other significant negative health effects.

"These results would support the provision of clinical cannabis to a greater number of patients in need," concluded the researchers. "We believe that cannabis can be a safe and effective medicine with various suggested improvements in the existing Compassionate IND program."

The Missoula Study reviews the relatively thin literature of scientific study of chronic marijuana use over the last century and notes that this is the first study to focus on benefits and side effects of the clinical use of known amounts of quality-controlled cannabis. Through the case of the late Randall Robinson, who suffered from glaucoma and after a legal fight began using medicinal marijuana in November 1976, it gives a brief history of the Compassionate IND program -- which apparently never included more than a few dozen patients -- through the 1980s. The advent of AIDS created a whole new group of applicants, but for unannounced reasons the Public Health Service of the first Bush administration closed the program to new patients in 1992. "A significant number," report the authors, "had received medical approval but were never supplied."

George McMahon is "Patient B" in the study. His medical history is recounted in detail, and the report notes that his condition improved considerably after he began using medicinal marijuana regularly in March 1990. The study also describes the official cultivation and preparation of the NIDA's marijuana cigarettes, reporting they are greatly inferior to the cannabis provided by the government in the United Kingdom under a similar program. All of the study patients say they have logistical difficulty and interruptions in getting their assigned supply of marijuana, must occasionally supplement inadequate supplies by other means, and have been occasionally subject to harassment by law enforcement or security personnel.

Based on their research, the authors of the Missoula Study recommend that the Compassionate IND program be reopened and extended to other patients in need, or that "local, state, and federal laws might be amended to provide regulated and monitored clinical cannabis to suitable candidates."

Copies of the study, "Chronic Cannabis Use in the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program: An Examination of Benefits and Adverse Effects of Legal, Clinical Cannabis," by Ethan Russo, et al., Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, Vol. 2 [1] 2002, are available for a fee from The Haworth Documentary Delivery Service:

1-800-HAWORTH or


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