Exploring medicinal use of cannabis in a time of policy change in New Zealand

July 13, 2020

Authors: Marta Rychert, Chris Wilkins, Karl Parker, Thomas Graydon-Guy

AIMS: To explore patterns of medicinal cannabis use prior to implementation of the new Medicinal Cannabis Scheme (MCS) in New Zealand.

METHODS: An anonymous online convenience survey of 3,634 last-year medicinal users of cannabis promoted via Facebook™ from May to August 2019.

RESULTS: Fifty percent of the sample were female, 18% were Māori and the median age was 38 years. The medical conditions for which cannabis was most often used were pain (81%), sleep (66%) and mental health conditions (64%). Respondents perceived cannabis to be an effective therapy and reported reducing use of other pharmaceutical medicines. Fifty-two percent reported side effects from cannabis use, including increased appetite (29%), drowsiness (12%), eye irritation (11%), dependency (10%), memory impairment (10%) and lack of energy (9%). Smoking was the dominant route of administration. Nearly half (47%) had discussed their use of cannabis with a medical professional in the previous year, while 14% had requested a prescription and 5% accessed a prescribed cannabis-based product (mostly oral CBD).

CONCLUSION: Respondents self-medicated with cannabis to treat a wide range of health complaints. Only half discussed medicinal cannabis use with their medical professional, and a minority requested a prescription and used a prescribed cannabis-based product.

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Published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, 22 May 2020, Vol 133

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