New Study Finds That Most People Use Medical Marijuana for Evidence-Based Reasons

Researchers looked at why Americans are signing up for medical marijuana, and whether cannabis’s benefits for their conditions were backed by science.

A new study published in the journal Health Affairs offers insight into why Americans are using medical marijuana in the United States.

Researchers from the University of Michigan investigated the patterns of medical cannabis use by analyzing patient registry data from states that have legalized medical marijuana. They then looked at whether research findings back the efficacy of cannabis for each condition.

“We did this study because we wanted to understand the reasons why people are using cannabis medically, and whether those reasons for use are evidence based,” said study author Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., a Research Fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center.

Studying the Use of Medical Marijuana in the U.S.

Boehnke and his colleagues were able to obtain patient-reported qualifying condition data from 15 of the nation’s medical marijuana states.

To assess the evidence of medical marijuana’s therapeutic potential for common qualifying conditions, researchers used a recent comprehensive research review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The rigorous and weighty 395-page report, published in 2017, reviewed 10,000 scientific studies on the health effects and safety of cannabis use. The review concluded that there was “conclusive or substantial evidence” of cannabis’s efficacy for treating chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Patterns of Medical Marijuana Use

From the available data, an overwhelming majority of medical marijuana patients in the study were diagnosed with conditions that have shown in studies to benefit from cannabis use. More than 85 percent of patients were seeking medical marijuana treatment for an evidence-based condition.

Additionally, the researchers found that chronic pain was by far the most common qualifying condition for medical marijuana in the U.S. Chronic pain accounted for 62.2 percent of all patient-reported qualifying conditions.

“This finding is consistent with the prevalence of chronic pain, which affects an estimated 100 million Americans,” wrote the authors.

As of today, 32 states and Washington, D.C. have approved the medical use of marijuana. Federally, however, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a category reserved for substances with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The researchers concluded that their findings indicate that marijuana’s current drug schedule under federal law is at odds with the legitimate and effective use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“Since the majority of states in the U.S. have legalized medical cannabis, we should consider how best to adequately regulate cannabis and safely incorporate cannabis into medical practice,” said Boehnke.

You can access the full text of the new study, “Qualifying Conditions Of Medical Cannabis License Holders In The United States,” through the journal Health Affairs.

More on the Use of Cannabis

There is more to learn about the uses of medical marijuana and the history of medical marijuana ailments in the U.S. You can also read up on the latest cannabis-related studies by visiting the Medical Marijuana, Inc. Scientific Research page and through our education page, or follow us Facebook and Twitter to make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest cannabis news.