The Canadian federal government has set up a system to grant the legal right to grow, possess and use marijuana for medical reasons. These "Marihuana Medical Access Regulations" went into effect July 2001. People living with HIV who want to use marijuana medicinally need to have their physician (usually a specialist) fill out the required forms. The Spring 2002 issue of CATIE's magazine the Positive Side has more information about the use of marijuana in HIV infection, including how to access this restricted herb. The Positive Side is available at www.catie.ca/e/pubs/index.html or by calling 1-800-263-1638.
Marijuana itself has few side effects other than the usually pleasant mood and perception alterations that may accompany its use. It may cause tachycardia (rapid beating of the heart), which can usually be controlled by decreasing the dose. Smoking marijuana is associated with the same long-term side effects as smoking cigarettes, including emphysema, high blood pressure and lung cancer. Alternatives to smoking include using the ground herb in baked goods (brownies, for example) and brewing it as a tea. Short-term studies indicate that marijuana can be safely used with some protease inhibitors.