Legal medicinal cannabis use on the rise

New research from the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative shows a significant uptake in legal medicinal cannabis use, with 37 per cent of Cannabis as Medicine survey respondents reporting prescription use – up from 2.5 per cent in the survey taken two years before. 

Results from the third Cannabis as Medicine study

People using prescribed products were more likely to use oral products or vaporised cannabis rather than smoking, highlighting a health benefit of this transition from illicit to legal use.  Overall, 95 per cent of respondents reported improvements to their health with cannabis use.

Chronic pain is the main reason prescribed patients use medicinal cannabis, consistent with other prescription data from the Therapeutics Goods Administration, while people using illicit products reported treating mental health or sleep conditions.

Only 24 per cent of prescribed patients agreed that accessing medicinal cannabis was straightforward. Cost is the biggest barrier to medicinal cannabis access for most respondents, with an average cost of $79 per week. People using illicit cannabis also reported an inability to find medical practitioners willing to prescribe, consistent with findings from a recent 2020 Senate Inquiry into the barriers to patient access in Australia.

More work is required to enhance communication between patients and doctors to make sure patients have access to regulated, quality-controlled cannabis products and can be informed of the exact THC and CBD composition, which is an ongoing problem with illicit cannabis. 

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