It can almost certainly ease chronic pain and might help some people sleep, but it may also raise the risk of getting schizophrenia and trigger heart attacks.
Those are among the conclusions about marijuana reached by a federal advisory panel in a report released Thursday.
The experts also called for a national effort to learn more about marijuana and its chemical cousins, including similarly acting compounds called cannabinoids.
The current lack of scientific information “poses a public health risk,” said the report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Patients, health care professionals and policy makers need more evidence to make sound decisions, it said.
For marijuana users or those considering it, “there’s very little to guide them” on amounts and health risks, said Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health, who headed the committee.
Several factors have limited research. While the federal government has approved some medicines containing ingredients found in marijuana, it still classifies marijuana as illegal and imposes restrictions on research. So scientists have to jump through bureaucratic hoops that some find daunting, the report said.