J Med Ethics 30:333-336 doi:10.1136/jme.2002.001347
  • Symposium on drugs

Prescribing cannabis: freedom, autonomy, and values

  1. M Hayry
  1. Correspondence to:
 M Hayry
 Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, UK;
  • Received 13 August 2002
  • Accepted 20 October 2003
  • Revised 23 September 2003


In many Western jurisdictions cannabis, unlike most other psychoactive drugs, cannot be prescribed to patients even in cases where medical professionals believe that it would ease the patient’s pain or anxiety. The reasons for this prohibition are mostly ideological, although medical and moral arguments have been formulated to support it. In this paper, it is argued that freedom, properly understood, provides a sound ethical reason to allow the use of cannabis in medicine. Scientific facts, appeals to harm and autonomy, and considerations of symbolic value cannot consistently justify prohibitions.