The use of cannabis-based medicines to treat a variety of conditions, and the use of cannabis as a recreational drug, is currently of interest to both the general public and the medical community. This report summarises the current research evidence on the health impacts of cannabis and cannabinoids to assist these communities in considering the opportunities and risks associated with cannabis use.
There is evidence that cannabis-based medicines have some therapeutic effects in specific clinical situations such as chronic pain, chemotherapy induced nausea, muscle spasms due to multiple sclerosis, and certain types of epilepsy.
There is evidence that recreational cannabis use is associated with negative health outcomes including mental illness (particularly in youth), drug use disorders, respiratory illness, impaired cognition, increased road accidents and lower birth weight in babies born to women exposed to cannabis.
The wide range of research methodologies in the literature makes it difficult to come to definitive conclusions in many cases.
There is a particular research gap in understanding the health effects of both recreational cannabis use and cannabis-based medications on specific population groups.
The lack of evidence-based information on both the potential therapeutic effects and harms of cannabis and cannabinoids poses a public health risk.