Are People Using Medical Marijuana for the Right Conditions?

Over 30 states in the U.S. allow marijuana use for qualifying health conditions. But are people really using it for the right reasons?

That was the question lead author Kevin Boehnke and his colleagues wanted to find out in their recent study published in Health Affairs. Interestingly, the study concluded that most people are indeed using the drug for reasons backed by scientific evidence (1).

To come to that conclusion, researchers used data from 15 state registries, showing the reasons patients claimed to need medical marijuana. The medical claims were patient-reported.   

It’s important to note that this study wasn’t aiming to find whether the marijuana actually helped the medical conditions.  

However, the authors did match up how people were using the drug with scientific evidence on cannabis from a 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report.

According to the authors, nearly 86 percent of all patient-reported marijuana use was backed by scientific evidence.

In addition, chronic pain made up the most common qualifying condition. Nearly 2/3 of the reasons patients reported needing marijuana was for chronic pain.

Lead author Kevin Boehnke said the study shows that most people have “substantial or conclusive evidence” for using medical marijuana, reports Reuters (2).

However, one problem is the lack of regulation for the drug across marijuana-legalized states. That’s largely due to the fact that marijuana is still considered illegal by the federal government. The government hasn’t compromised its stance to provide insightful marijuana research.

Because of that fact, medical marijuana patients have to figure out their own dosing, Boehnke said in Reuters. Health professionals are concerned about the safety and efficacy of using medical marijuana in this manner.

Despite the obstacles, it’s clear that many Americans consider marijuana helpful for their health conditions. Study authors are calling for a national registry for medical cannabis to “facilitate better understanding of trends in use and of its potential effectiveness.”

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  1. Boehnke1, K. F., Gangopadhyay, S., Clauw, D. J., & Haffajee, R. L. (2019 February). Qualifying Conditions Of Medical Cannabis License Holders In The United States. Health Affairs, 38(2). doi:
  2. Rapaport, L. (2019, February 6). Chronic pain most common reason U.S. patients get medical marijuana. Reuters. Retrieved from