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Dr. Julie Holland is a New York-based physician who spent three years researching and editing a book about the benefits and risks of marijuana with some of the country’s leading medical marijuana experts. Having studied other psychoactive drugs, Dr. Holland says, “I was impressed with how safe and therapeutic the cannabis plant is.”

Studies show that medical cannabis can be therapeutic for people with multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and chronic pain. According to Dr. Holland, newly emerging research suggests that cannabis may kill some cancer cells and slow the growth of cancerous tumors. Noting that cannabis was a legal medication until 1937, Dr. Holland says, “Just making it illegal doesn’t strip it of its medical value.”

In addition to its therapeutic value, Dr. Holland says that risks associated with using medical marijuana are controllable. “People with compromised lungs shouldn’t smoke medical marijuana because any smoking can inflame the lungs, and people with a history of psychosis also shouldn’t use medical marijuana,” she says. However, in general, medical marijuana is extremely safe and creates fewer problems than many prescribed medications, according to Dr. Holland. And compared to other substances — both legal and illicit — marijuana, especially when used under medical supervision, has a much lower potential of causing overdose or addiction. Given its safety and effectiveness, medical cannabis should be made available as a legal medication. According to Dr. Holland, “People shouldn’t have to break the law to get the medicine they need.”