Cannabinoid receptor agonists act presynaptically to inhibit the release of glutamate. Because other drugs with this action are known to reduce excitotoxicity, we tested several cannabimimetics in a model of synaptically mediated neuronal death. Reduction of the extracellular Mg2+ concentration to 0.1 mM evoked a repetitive pattern of intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+](i)) spiking that, when maintained for 24 hr, resulted in significant neuronal death. The [Ca2+](i) spiking and cell death in this model result from excessive activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, as indicated by the inhibition of both [Ca2+](i) spiking and neuronal death by the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist CGS19755 (10 μM). The cannabimimetic drug Win55212-2 (100 nM) completely blocked [Ca2+](i) spiking and prevented neuronal death induced by low extracellular Mg2+ concentrations. These effects on [Ca2+](i) spiking and viability were stereoselective and were prevented by the CB1 receptor antagonist SR141716 (100 nM). The partial agonist CP55940 (100 nM) also afforded significant protection from excitotoxicity. Cannabimimetic drugs did not protect cells from the direct application of glutamate (30 μM). These data suggest that cannabimimetic drugs may slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.