Patients like Smith have made it their mission to educate people about the benefits of medical marijuana. Some physicians also say the main active chemical in marijuana, THC, shows promise to help relieve certain types of pain and muscle spasticity.
"Research in general has shown that it's not useless, as some have critics have said," said Dr. Igor Grant, professor and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego. "We don't know what all the uses are and it's no panacea, but it definitely has use."
The American Medical Association has urged the federal government to review marijuana's status as a Schedule 1 drug -- a drug considered to be highly addictive with no medical use -- to enable more clinical trials that can better assess the efficacy of medicinal marijuana.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 14 states, and experts believe because the medical marijuana movement is catching on, business is booming for the pot industry. The proof, they say, is books like Moriarty's.
"Because cannabis is big business, it doesn't surprise me at all that people are finding ways to make money," said Chapkis. "It's just another industry for a lot of people."
"People in general now recognize that marijuana is not a good thing, but neither is it a terrible poison," said Grant.
But despite the opinion of much of the medical community and the fact that medical marijuana use is legal in 14 states, so far the federal government does not support its use. The Food and Drug Administration took the stance several years ago that marijuana has no medicinal use or value, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not support legalizing marijuana for any reason, citing its addictive nature and numerous adverse health effects associated with use of the drug.
Instead, the DEA supports the use of Marinol, a synthetic drug containing THC that's been available since the 1980s. It also supports research into the development of similar synthetic drugs.
"The Food and Drug Administration has determined that Marinol is safe, effective and has therapeutic benefits for use as a treatment for nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and as a treatment of weight loss in patients with AIDS," the DEA says on its website. "However, it does not produce the harmful health effects associated with smoking marijuana."
But Grant said that drugs like Marinol -- called cannibinoids -- don't work well for everybody who uses them.
The absorption of the cabinoids is a little bit irregular," said Grant. "Some absorb well, others absorb poorly."
While the debate continues, people like Sandy Moriarty have been able to take advantage of the increasingly high profile of medical marijuana. Although she's been cooking with marijuana for decades and has been a staunch supporter of the movement to legalize medical marijuana, she's surprised she's been able to meet with commercial success.
"It tells me there's more of an underlying curiosity and interest in it than I thought," said Moriarty. "I thought it was a very small group of people who were fighting a no-win situation."