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Medical Marijuana for Digestive Disorders: High Time to Prescribe?

Gerich, Mark E MD1,4; Isfort, Robert W MD1,4; Brimhall, Bryan MD2; Siegel, Corey A MD3

American Journal of Gastroenterology: February 2015 - Volume 110 - Issue 2 - p 208–214
doi: 10.1038/ajg.2014.245

The use of recreational and medical marijuana is increasingly accepted by the general public in the United States. Along with growing interest in marijuana use has come an understanding of marijuana’s effects on normal physiology and disease, primarily through elucidation of the human endocannabinoid system. Scientific inquiry into this system has indicated potential roles for marijuana in the modulation of gastrointestinal symptoms and disease. Some patients with gastrointestinal disorders already turn to marijuana for symptomatic relief, often without a clear understanding of the risks and benefits of marijuana for their condition. Unfortunately, that lack of understanding is shared by health-care providers. Marijuana’s federal legal status as a Schedule I controlled substance has limited clinical investigation of its effects. There are also potential legal ramifications for physicians who provide recommendations for marijuana for their patients. Despite these constraints, as an increasing number of patients consider marijuana as a potential therapy for their digestive disorders, health-care providers will be asked to discuss the issues surrounding medical marijuana with their patients.

1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, USA

2Department of Medicine, University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, USA

3Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA

Correspondence: Mark E. Gerich, MD, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 12700 E. 19th Avenue, MS B-146, Aurora, Colorado 80045, USA. E-mail:

4The first two authors contributed equally to this work

SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL accompanies this paper at,

Received 02 April 2014; accepted 03 June 2014

Guarantor of the article: Mark E. Gerich, MD.

Specific author contributions: Mark E. Gerich: paper concept, literature review, writing, and proofreading/revision; Robert W. Isfort: literature review, writing, proofreading, and table design; Bryan Brimhall: literature review, graphics design, and writing; Corey A. Siegel: paper concept and proofreading/revision.

Financial support: None.

Potential competing interests: None.

© The American College of Gastroenterology 2015. All Rights Reserved.
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