Medical marijuana
The Greenleaf Compassion Center in New Jersey received a permit to begin growing medicinal marijuana. Reuters

More doctors should advise people diagnosed with cancer to use medical marijuana and should do so earlier in the treatment programme, Israeli research has suggested.

The study, carried out at the Sheba medical centre in Tel Hashomer, Israel, found that two thirds of patients who were prescribed marijuana to combat pain reported an improvement in their condition.

More than 60 percent said the marijuana caused a significant improvement in their quality of life, with 56 percent noting an improvement in their ability to manage pain.

The research found that almost a day passed between patients being diagnosed with cancer and submitting a request to grow or possess medicinal marijuana. Some 39 percent of respondents were told by family and friends to apply, rather than their doctor.

The study, led by Dr Ido Wolf, analysed the views of 263 people with cancer and concluded that patients were given the marijuana option too late.

"The treatment should be offered to patients in the earlier stages," said the researchers. "[It] should be offered to patients by trained medical teams because we are dealing with an effective treatment."

The vast majority of patients requested medical marijuana because of pain, while others cited nausea and weakness. About 65 percent said they would recommend it to other patients.

There are 12 farms authorised to cultivate medical marijuana in Israel and patients can be authorised to grow up to 10 plants at home.

Medical marijuana is most commonly prescribed for cancer of the lung, breast and pancreas.