Marinol is currently the only FDA approved THC-based pharmaceutical drug on the market. This begs the question: why make a drug based on synthetic THC when you can get it naturally from a harvestable plant? And if this medicine has received FDA approval, why hasn’t cannabis itself? 

These are reasonable questions to ask, given that FDA approval is what many politicians, (such as Pennsylvania’s Matt Baker) are looking for when approving medicinal uses for cannabis. But with all of these questions surrounding legalization, we need to focus on one more: is Marinol as good as—or even better than—marijuana itself?

What Is Marinol?

Marinol, or Dronabinol, is a man-made, THC-based drug that is prescribed to combat appetite loss in those suffering from AIDS or eating disorders. It can also be used as a treatment for those with nausea and other stomach problems that occur during chemotherapy. As much as a man-made variant of a naturally-available treatment may sound like way to sideline the medicinal marijuana industry, users are actually quite pleased with the results of using Marinol. They find that it does exactly what it’s prescribed to do, which is combat loss of appetite and problematic weight loss.

Is It As Effective as Medical Marijuana?

The simple answer is no, but the reasons behind this response are far more complex than just examining how medical marijuana can treat the same symptoms as Marinol. For one thing, we have to look at who’s using the drug and why. HIV/AIDS as well as cancer patients need an affordable medication, since these illnesses affect one’s ability to work quite drastically. Marijuana dispensaries sell their medication for far cheaper than pharmacies sell Marinol. Marijuana is also just as medically effective as Marinol is and then some. 

What’s With the Lack of CBD?

While Marinol is mainly made up of the psychoactive component of cannabis, THC, chemists failed to include the components that have added health benefits that many medical marijuana users depend on, such as CBD. CBD doesn’t combat appetite loss in the same way THC does, but it does attack cancer and tumor cells as well as symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. While Marinol may have the upper hand with regard to dose control (at least for the moment), overall, medical marijuana health benefits far outweigh the expensive, synthetic alternative.

The FDA has approved a THC-based pharmaceutical drug before approving medicinal marijuana, which is highly problematic. Marinol is more expensive and less effective than medicinal marijuana, raising questions as to why one is approved while the other condemned. Users are currently happy with Marinol’s benefits, but cannabis should be considered a viable medicine for those suffering from illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.