The scientific and clinical evidence to support the medicinal use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products is poor. However, some scientific evidence exists to indicate their potential therapeutic value for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation. There are suggestions that medical cannabis may be beneficial for sufferers of HIV, neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, patients undergoing chemotherapy and for those seeking pain relief where conventional medicine has failed.

Cannabis is a crude plant product, which contains a complex mixture of many chemicals. This makes production of a standard cannabis product extremely difficult, as it is not clear which chemicals are responsible for particular therapeutic effects, and the reaction invoked by the drug differs vastly amongst individuals. Cannabis smoke in particular, contains a variety of substances that are dangerous to health.

In small quantities cannabis use can have immediate effects on perception, appetite and coordination. In larger quantities, perception is at greater risk of being distorted and some people even experience hallucinations. The long term effects can consist of reduced motivation, reduced brain function, hormone imbalance, a reduced immune system and an increased risk of psychosis.

Imaging studies in adolescents have shown that regular cannabis users display impaired neural connectivity in specific brain regions involved in a broad range of executive functions. Frequent and persistent cannabis use starting in adolescence was associated with a loss of an average of eight IQ points measured in mid-adulthood according to one particular New Zealand study.

Smoking is widely recognised as the most harmful and dangerous method of using cannabis. Cannabis smoke is associated with increased risk of cancer, lung damage and poor pregnancy outcomes.


RACS recommends:

  1. Opposing the use of medical cannabis until a body of evidence exists to demonstrate that the benefits observed significantly outweigh any associated risk
  2. Using caution, and particularly recommends against smoking as a way of administering cannabis
  3. Strongly opposing the use of cannabis in children, adolescents or any other vulnerable groups except in the context of well run clinical trials
  4. Expressing concern that the legalisation of medical cannabis by governments would send the wrong message to the community, and downplays the harmful risks associated with illicit drug use.

Read the complete position paper at the link below.