Featured Media Resource: Is Marijuana Actually Medicinal? (Above the Noise/KQED)
Host Myles Bess clears the smoke on medical marijuana research and gets into the weeds explaining some of the barriers to studying it.

ABOVE THE NOISE, a new YouTube series from KQED, follows young journalists as they investigate real world issues that impact young people’s lives. These short videos prompt critical thinking with middle and high school students to spark civic engagement. Join hosts Myles Bess and Shirin Ghaffary for new episodes published every Wednesday on YouTube.

Medicinal Marijuana and Federal Law

With the results of the 2016 election, use of medical marijuana is now approved in 28 states, plus Washington, D.C., but the plant itself is not approved as medicine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  It still remains federally illegal. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug – which is a category reserved for the most dangerous drugs and those that don’t show any medical benefit. This classification makes it difficult for researchers to study, because drugs in this category  are very tightly regulated. In 2011, two state governors petitioned federal agencies to reclassify marijuana to a less restrictive category– one that acknowledges its medical benefits. In August of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reconfirmed marijuana’s listing as a Schedule I drug, but are loosening some of the barriers for researchers wanting to study it.

So what does the science say? Are there actually any medical benefits to marijuana?  Turns out, the answer is a bit more complicated than you may think. 

Based on the science, how do you think the government should handle medical marijuana?

Do Now

Based on the science, how do you think the government should handle medical marijuana? Why? #DoNowMedicalMarijuana

How to Do Now

Do Now by posting a video response in this week’s Flipgrid.

You can also post your response on Twitter or in the comment section below. Be sure to include #DoNowMedicalMarijuana in your tweet.

Go here for more tips for using Do Now, using Twitter for teaching, and using other digital tools.

More Resources

REPORT: FDA Regulation of Marijuana: Past Actions, Future Plans (FDA.gov)

REPORT: Blurred Boundaries: The Therapeutics and Politics of Medical Marijuana (Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic)


  • Brenda Elizalde

    I believe that the federal government shouldn’t worry about marijuana. I say it’s up to the states whether or not they will allow they use of medical marijuana.

    • Lizet Ortega

      Definitely agree with you, it should be up to the states to decide whether or not they want it to be legal in their territory. What’s the point of a state approving it if it’s still federally illegal? Plus, they are not allowing any research on it so how are we supposed to know if it’s truly more harmful than it is beneficial. You have a point, and I agree, they should stay out of it and leave it up to the states. #DoNowMedicalMarijuana #MyCMSTArgs

  • Jason In

    Medical marijuana does have some benefits; no doubt about it. However, my concern would be people abusing the substance constantly. I can see people who do not need medicinal marijuana asking their doctor for it and just abuse it and not get in trouble for it as they have a prescription for it. Also, if people smoke and drive, it could be just as bad as drinking and driving.
    For medical use, it fine. But doctors need to confirm that the patient needs it and be willing to cut them off if that patient starts to abuse it and use it recreationally so that they won’t have breathing issues and that they won’t be reliant on it like drug addicts.

    • cheyenne Gonzalez

      thats no different than someone abusing a prescription drug…

    • Jace Cuneo

      I see where you are coming from where people can “abuse” it, but based off of your comment I don’t think you know too much about marijuana. Drunk driving is terrible and causes tons of deaths, stoned driving is just not good, having done both in my life that is my opinion. There are some medical benefits and people should be allowed to use it. The only reason it isn’t legal (federally) is because there are people that would lose money if that happened.

  • lakayla high school

    i fully support the benefits of medical marijuana .it has helped my family for many years as almost everyone that has passed in my family died of multiple medical issues that have now been passed down to me.yay . they all used medicinal cannabis . the gov’t should monitor the uses and distribution by making marijuana legal for medicinal use if they’re so freaked about the fact that its used so often and who its used by. the federal gov’t should actually look into the fact that its so often and who uses it the most instead of just blindly passing judgement on people who don’t deserve it.

  • cheyenne Gonzalez

    the government should allow the medicinal use of marijuana simply because of the many benefits the use holds, especially for major health issues. i believe marijuana is a lot more beneficial than some prescription drugs however it is not for everybody. it is based on ones specific anatomy and ideals. i believe depriving all the use of marijuana is unfair to those who are in need of it. i think there are bigger issues to focus on then just the marijuana issue. passing it as an option for others is nothing more than giving others a different option for treatment.

  • Rodolfo Sanchez

    Why is the government refusing to accept that marijuana has some good in it? We know marijuana is a very common drug but it helps people with cancer since many people died due to cancer so it has to be approve just for medical uses.

  • Jonathan Gillig

    I have suggested this site, and its Do Now activity to many teachers because of its production quality and engaging topics. The marijuana video is not appropriate for middle and young high schoolers. This topic needs to draw the line between reporting and advocacy and those coy little ‘winks’ and suggestive comments makes the producer’s bias rather obvious. Important topic unnecessarily editorialized.

    • Annelise Wunderlich

      We appreciate the critique, especially because Do Now and our new series Above the Noise both strive to model balanced investigation of the issues that are most relevant to teens. Our host Myles’s wink was not meant to editorialize (we were trying to be playful) but we can see how it might be construed that way. We put a lot of effort into presenting research on both sides of the medical marijuana debate. We hope the series invites teachers and students to analyze the video from a media literacy framework, and let us know what questions they have about the information we present in the videos.

  • Jace Cuneo

    In my opinion, marijuana should be legal, not just medically, straight up legal. In a medical perspective it reduces chronic pain, nausea, blah blah. http://fortune.com/2017/01/13/marijuana-health-effects-study/ But it definitely needs to be taken off the class 1 type drug. It is pretty much harmless and the fact that some one can put you in a cage over that or fine you is crazy to me. I heard that it does reduce the size of tumors, but just as much as turmeric, ginger or a non sugar diet. Remember, not all people that smoke pot are potheads. Potheads are lazy and don’t get things done.
    #DoNowMedicalMarijuana #MyCMSTArgs

  • Lizet Ortega

    As president Obama once said “…let science — and not ideology — dictate policy”. I still don’t understand why the FDA is putting restrictions to scientist who are willingly trying prove that the cannabis plant is in fact more beneficial than harmful to the population. The DEA has confirmed the fact that they lack actual proof to confirm the effect the drug has compared to other scheduled I drugs. Marihuana has been constantly mislabeled due to the lack of knowledge people have about it, so far there hasn’t been any recorded cases about marihuana impairing a person or having the same effect as any other drug. The benefits definitely outweighs the non-proven consequences that the administration is giving to the public, the difference is that the information is not being released due to the lack of experiments conducted. But how can scientist do research on it if the DEA keep putting restrictions on them? To me it doesn’t make sense, let science decide if it’s harmful to be legal and not your constant ideology to reject something you know nothing about. Yes, marihuana was approved by 28 states but it’s still federally illegal, so does it even matter? How can a plant be illegal for medical purposes but drugs like heroin and Xanax are being legally prescribed to people on a daily? Many people have access to drugs that are way more harmful to their brain and organs but yet they are legal. I’m not asking for them to accept but to give scientist the opportunity to prove them wrong. #DoNowMedicalMarijuana #MyCMSTArgs

    • Brandon Biermann

      I agree with what you are saying in regards to the lack of research that has been conducted on marijuana. There is just not enough strong statistical research that can show one side or the other. Allowing marijuana to be classified as a Schedule 1 drug is greatly affecting the possibilities to disprove any theories on this topic. With a family member that used medical marijuana to help treat with his brain cancer, allowed him to live a much more happier life through the processes of his cancer. I truly believe that there are some great medical uses for marijuana. #DoNowMedicalMarijuana #MyCMSTArgs

  • Teri Markanson

    I have and will never understand why, despite the numerous studies by different agencies, understand why Marijuana is illegal at all! Numerous Government studies, from different countries, have done extensive studies on Marijuana. The ONLY negative result from ALL of them is, if someone starts smoking before they’re 17 – 18 years old, they have memory issues. Until 1937, both Marijuana and Alcohol were legal. Both were made illegal during Prohibition…then they allowed the MOST DEADLY 1 return?
    I have seen many a headline or article on the deaths of people due to alcohol but NEVER 1 about the same situation and Marijauana…go figure.

  • Brandon Biermann

    I believe that marijuana should be used for medical purposes, but with the federal government classifying this as a schedule 1 drug, allows for difficult research to be conducted. Having a harder process to be accepted to study, detours future research in this field. I can personally account for the possible benefits that this drug can offer with witnessing the effects it had on my grandfather. He who had brain cancer that caused him tremendous pain and loss of appetite, saw a outstanding turn around from these symptoms when he was still alive. The pain through out his body was diminished with the use of THC, to the point where it allowed him to function to best of his ability during every day scenarios. It also allowed him to hold down his food and eat larger portions of meal. After seeing all of this with my family member, I can say that there are many benefits to this drug. #DoNowMedicalMarijuana #MyCMSTArgs


Lauren Farrar

Lauren has a background in biology, education, and filmmaking. She has had the privilege to work on a diverse array of educational endeavors and is currently a producer for KQED Learning's YouTube series Above the Noise. Lauren's career has taken her to the deepest parts of the ocean to film deep sea hydrothermal vents for classroom webcasts, into the pool to film synchronized swimmers to teach about the pH scale, and on roller coasters to create a video about activation energy. And, she’s done it all for the sake of education. Lauren loves communicating science! Follow her on twitter @LFarrarAtWork

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