Long-standing erroneous beliefs, criminalization, pharmaceutical industry lobbying, government campaigning, and racial stereotypes are among the most powerful reasons that marijuana is most often considered a "bad" or "gateway" drug. Studies have demonstrated that marijuana can be effective in treating health maladies, including glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and a host of other ailments (Kalant 2001; Iskedejian et al. 2007). Marijuana has also been used to stimulate appetite in the wake of chemotherapy and other health treatments, as well as treat other side effects of these treatments including nausea (Guzman 2003). Other research shows that marijuana is effective in mitigating severe pain (Woolridge et al. 2005; Iskedejian et al. 2006) Because of US Federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal substance, more often than not, prescribed patients benefiting from use of cannabis are made to feel vulnerable and experience stress owing to the stigmas attached to its use.
North America is currently in the grips of a crisis rooted in the use of licit and illicit opioid-based analgesics. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Canada and the US. The growing toll of opioid-related morbidity and mortality requires new interventions be investigated. Research suggests that increasing adult access to both medical and recreational cannabis has significant positive impacts on public health and safety as a result of substitution effect. Studies have found that medical cannabis programs are associated with a reduction in the use of opioids and associated morbidity and mortality.