Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the U.S. and its prevalence increases with age. Glaucoma begins earlier and progresses faster among the black population. Glaucoma occurs when the pressure within the eye (intraocular) becomes elevated and damages the optic nerve. Cannabis acts directly on receptors in the eye to decrease the intraocular pressure and prevents the damage that leads to blindlness. Research on the use of cannabis for the treatment of glaucoma began in the 1970s.
Robert Randall became the first patient to be allowed access to medical marijuana through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1976. As a glaucoma patient, he had found by accident that smoking cannabis decreased his intraocular pressure and thus could prevent him from going blind. Following his initial arrest for growing cannabis he had to prove it controlled his glaucoma to win a medical necessity defense. He was able to do so and in later years two other patients, Elvy Musikka and Corinne Millet, were able to gain access to medical marijuana through the IND access. Learn about their stories and the science that supports the ability to reduce intraocular pressure for glaucoma patients in this section.