A survey of medical cannabis patients in Canada provides some fascinating insights, and a few unsettling ones.
Carried out between March and July last year, participation in the survey was available to Canadian residents aged 16 years and older who were currently, previously or considering using cannabis for medical purposes.
Of the 5,744 individuals from across Canada who completed the survey, 95% reported currently taking medical cannabis. But only 54% of these individuals held current medical authorization. This low proportion would be largely due to the non-medical cannabis being legal in Canada since 2018.
Among other findings of the survey.
- 83% of individuals reported taking medical cannabis at least once a day and 52% reported using cannabis for more than 5 years.
- The most common symptoms or health conditions medical cannabis was taken for were chronic pain (67%), anxiety (64%) and sleep issues (62%).
- 50% reported taking medical cannabis to reduce use of other medications, particularly opioids (45%)
- Interestingly, those with current medical authorization were more likely to report no side effects from using cannabis medicinally compared to those without authorization (30% vs. 23%)
Among those with medical authorization that was current, 78% reported purchasing medicinal cannabis from a federally licensed seller. But half also reported obtaining it from a recreational source.
One of the fears when Canada made adult-use legal was the negative impact that could have on the country’s medical cannabis program. Those fears appear to have been realised, with 2 in 3 individuals with past authorization believing there is no need for authorization due to the recreational market. This raises issues in relation to patients perhaps not getting the medications and advice they need.
Based on the findings of this study, six key recommendations have been proposed; including making changes to cannabis regulations, tax policy, and insurance formularies to reduce out-of-pocket costs associated with medical cannabis. This is with view to re-directing use away from the unregulated market. One of the other recommendations is expanding reasonable access to medical cannabis by adding community pharmacy dispensing.
The report will be submitted to Health Canada during the proposed review of the country’s Cannabis Act, which is scheduled for this year
More from the Medical Cannabis Access Survey can be viewed here.