Who Are America's Medical Marijuana Patients

Analysis by California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, Ph.D
An interesting new study of the California medical cannabis user population by Prof. Craig Reinarman et al. appears in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 43(2) Apr-Jun, 2011: “Who Are Medical Marijuana Patients? Population Characteristics from Nine California Assessment Clinics”.
Noteworthy findings:
*Medical cannabis use is higher than average among Blacks and Native Americans, lower among Latinos and Asians.
*73% of patients are male.
*Use is heaviest in the 25-44 year age group.
*Leading indications:
82.6% for pain
70.7% to improve sleep
55% for “relaxation”
41% for muscle spasms
41% for headaches
38% for anxiety
28% for nausea
26% for depression
51% use as a substitute for prescription medication (showing that medical cannabis may offer significant health cost savings)
Medical cannabis users report significantly lower alcohol & cocaine use than the average population,  supporting the substitution theory that more cannabis use may lead to less abuse of other drugs.

Abstract – Marijuana is a currently illegal psychoactive drug that many physicians believe has substantial therapeutic uses. The medical literature contains a growing number of studies on cannabinoids as well as case studies and anecdotal reports suggesting therapeutic potential. Fifteen states have passed medical marijuana laws, but little is known about the growing population of patients who use marijuana medicinally. This article reports on a sample of 1,746 patients from a network of nine medical marijuana evaluation clinics in California. Patients completed a standardized medical history form; evaluating physicians completed standardized evaluation forms. From this data we describe patient characteristics, self-reported presenting symptoms, physician evaluations, other treatments tried, other drug use, and medical marijuana use practices. Pain, insomnia, and anxiety were the most common conditions for which evaluating physicians recommended medical marijuana. Shifts in the medical marijuana patient population over time, the need for further research, and the issue of diversion are discussed.

80 thoughts

  1. 49. Brian
    If we started absolving politicians of their sins – we would be working 24/7/365.

  2. Well, I did it “their way” for some years in regards to prescription meds that made things worse. I’m doing it MY way now and it works. Cannabis surpassed my expectations of it. I was floored at what a difference it has made in my being able to have a normal life.

  3. It also helps with severe endometriosis and depression. I followed big pharmas med rules for 20 years. I have been on medical MJ for two and will never look back.
    Yet alcohol remains legal…

  4. Medical Marijuana Patients are good people, and they are not varmints to be killed, suffer, tortured, robbed, or put away by the federal government.

  5. Kelly Says:
    July 21st, 2011 at 8:01 pm
    “It also help epileptics. Marijuana makes my epileptic auras stop.And I tried Marinol and all it did was make me physically sick”.
    That’s tragic. Natural Cannabis evolved in it’s God given form contain
    up to 100 different Cannabanoids as well as Terpenoids that have Phytonutrient and Antibacterial compounds…
    So for a Pharmacy to “synthetically” isolate only THC or CBD as a substitute,doesn’t cut it…It’s like substituting a stale vitamin tablet for a fresh living orange or apple off a tree…”.You can’t fool Mother Nature

  6. I have had 30 surgeries most of which were orthopedic. I have lived with chronic, severe pain since I was 23 and I am 56 now. I have never tried marijuana for fear of getting arrested. My neurologist, pain management doctor and my physical therapist all have told me that they believe marijuana would be very beneficial for me and much safer than the prescription narcotics I use now. I live in Louisiana and we have not yet come out of the deep south traditions here. We have a man in prison for life for getting caught 4 times for using marijuana. He’s 35 and has a young family. Rapists and murderers get less time. It is time for the remaining states and the federal government to make marijuana legal. It is legal in DC but not here. Hmmmm kinda makes you wonder.

  7. When I see cannabis in any form it is a gift.
    When the system sees cannabis it is a form of a crime.
    Ray DiPasquale

  8. The pure sativas from the 60s and 70s could not have been an anti-anxiety medication in my book. Quite the opposite, really.
    The current BC bud stuff with it’s indica genetics seems to be effective for anti-anxiety. Too bad I don’t need such a medicine these days.

  9. Galilieo I use indicas for studying and when I want to think. They make me energized but I agree I am a sativa person all the way for sleep, pain, and stress.

  10. My mom smoked during her cancer treatment, and I think it helped her a lot. I’m amazed by the amount of different ailments that marijuana seems to help! And is probably safer than a lot of prescription medications that people have no trouble getting.

  11. I am a 52-year-old communications professional, now at home with 3 young sons. I finally acquired a long-desired medical card in March after balking when family doc prescribed oxycontin (!) and Ambien for bursitis pain and degenerative disc disease (neck/upper cervical) discomfort. After I learned about differing effects of using cannabis indica vs sativa, and creating my own enjoyable “regimen,” I have completely eliminated Ambien from my life (used it often for insomnia, for years). Also, I cut my Effexor dosage (prescribed for hot flashes and anxiety triggered during perimenopause) in half, and plan to taper completely off that pharmaceutical, as well.

  12. @64 – As far as the DEA is concerned, this makes you a criminal! As far as I’m concerned, it makes you a good and decent citizen trying to care for yourself in the best way possible.

  13. @Linda J-MJ is awesome for menopausal symptoms. If women truly knew how effective MJ was for menopause there would be riots in the streets to get rid of big pharma(-ell before the MJ made us all mellow 🙂

  14. @Don, too true, you make an important point. The cynical side of me muses whether the lobbying power of Big Pharma helps keep this particular DEA boat afloat … And @sherri, I have been definitely spreading the word to all my female contemporaries! Thanks for your responses.

  15. @Linda J-It is insane how big pharma has it’s hands in everything. You’d think they’d want to find a way to make profit from MJ as well. Then again since they are control freaks of the highest order, they’d want to involve themselves into every plant on the planet.

  16. Im 33 years old i have chrohns disease;fibro;cronic-tonic seizures;and sever body movements due to medication i took. I live in missouri they dont belive in medical mj but would rather have some one taken 96 pills a day a little over kill when mj helps and dont have to even but 10 of them pills. Mj been around for years for medical purposes. Im in pain every day even know i take percoset;methodone;and fentanol. In stead of them leagalizin alcohol witch kills people one a daily bases from liver failer to car wreaks they wont leagalize the one drug that helps people i never seen someone on mj get behind the weel and kill someone. Im very upset with are goverment for leavin the people in the situations they are when they may have caused the issue. So if anyone can help please do.

  17. As a baby boomer we learned a long time ago about what marijuana does and does not do. A drug I used for recreation in the Nam yrs. I know use for medication. I have a fused nerve in the spine complicated with Ostiopina. With a dose of pot I am able to be on my feet and walk some. I never thought I’d say, but it’s nice to do the dishes. My problem is that it’s pot luck to get the right strain that works directly on that nerve. If marijuana was legal I can get that same strain every time. This is a good plant, it’s hard to believe that we vote in the best we have with there Harvard and Yale educations and yet have no common sense.

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  19. I’m a medical Marijuana patient and have been for years although I didn’t rush out and get my card right away because pot is readily available and has been all of my life.
    The reasons I use medical pot are, a lifelong history of bleeding ulcers. I was sixteen when I was first hospitalized for this condition and from that point on have been hospitalized many many times for my stomach issue’s. I have a hiato hernia and this causes nausea on a daily basis, especially fist thing in the morning. When I wake up every morning and feel like I’m going to puke my guts out, which is pretty much every morning, I light up and get amazing relief, better than any anti nausea meds big pharmacy prescribes. My hiato hernia is not considered by my DR. to be serious enough for surgery and the marijuana keeps me from getting sick, once I start throwing up, it gets worse and in the end, I’m looking at more hospitalization. Smoking a joint keeps the nausea in check, thus saving me a trip to the hospital and preventing me from spitting up blood. If I start puking, it’s all over and I will be throwing up blood, which, over the years has caused me to be hospitalized over and over again. But that’s not all. I’m on the fentanyl pain patch for over ten years now, for phantom leg pain, I lost my right leg below the knee in a motorcycle accident, and I would gladly give it up if I could just keep a steady supply of meds. They charge such outrageous prices, that I can’t afford my meds and suffer because of this. And last but not least, Hepatitis C, for which I am already having symptoms from. I get top notch relief from marijuana and think my government is a joke and can no longer be trusted, period. My government is nothing but liar’s and cheats and they think that by telling be untruth’s, I’m going to believe them? That I’m going to respect them? I’ve lost all respect for the feds! When citizens lose respect for their elected officials, that only tells me that it’s time for a little white house cleaning! I’ve been smoking pot for almost 43 years. I’m a white, 53 year old male and I’m above average in intelligence, have a super great memory, I can remember crawling on the floor before I could walk, remember Mom using alcohol and rubbing it on my gums for the teething pain and much more! And I was eleven years old when I started smoking. Some country we live in where your eleven year old child can have easy access to this supposed evil drug. And I have no problem of people getting their cards when there’s nothing wrong with them. Marijuana shouldn’t even be illegal! Just leave me alone and let me smoke my beloved Mary Jane!

  20. I am a chronic pain patient on 480mg of Oxycontin daily not counting my Roxicodone and my Nuycenta..I have fibromyalgia x myofascil pain syndrome on top of diabetes on top of cyclic vomting which I have a Marinol script for.Nothing and I mean nothing works as well as cannabis for me.I cannot eat or sleep w/o it.And Im lucky if I get 4 hours sleep a day.My wifes insurance could save thousands of dollars on prescriptions if they would let me alone to medicate with cannabis.I am disabled and probaly for life.I just wish it wouldnt cause me so much fear to procure cannabis to use for a documented illness.

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