California’s medical marijuana system is a crooked cesspool of substance abuse that doesn’t help anyone, right? That, at least, is the contention of many who oppose MMJ there and elsewhere in the United States.
But a new study suggests it simply isn’t true. As it turns out, the “failure” of medical weed in the Golden State is more urban legend than fact.
The study found that almost every patient who uses medicinal cannabis believes the drug has helped improve serious medical symptoms: A full 92 percent of patients said pot has alleviated their suffering.
The survey, based on data from 2012’s California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, included telephone responses from more than 7,500 residents. It determined that about 1.4 million people use MMJ to treat serious illness.
That amounts to less than 5 percent of the state’s population. Roughly 4 percent of Americans regularly use weed.
“This study proves what patients and advocates have been saying for years, that medical marijuana is efficacious,” said Don Duncan, director of the California branch of Americans for Safe Access. “The study roundly rejects the argument that medical cannabis is a smoke screen or a sham.”
The study, researchers said, “contradicts commonly held beliefs that medical marijuana is being overused by healthy individuals. A perception persists that medical marijuana users may not ‘need’ to use it to treat a serious medical condition.”
It’s easy to get a medical marijuana recommendation in California. But in itself, that doesn’t mean much. According to the study, the ready availability of medical cannabis in California doesn’t seem to be attracting many people who don’t need it.
Police groups and other marijuana opponents regularly insist medical pot is a giant con job and a smokescreen for legalizing the drug. The study proves that isn’t true. The state may decide to legalize in 2016, but there seem to be few Californians who use MMJ purely for recreation.
Respondents said they use weed for a wide variety of ailments. The largest group – 31 percent – said they took medicinal marijuana to treat chronic pain. Eleven percent use it for arthritis, 8 percent for migraines, and 7 percent for cancer.
There is already substantial evidence that cannabis is effective in treating each of these issues, especially in controlling the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer medications.
Many migraine sufferers have no other medication that works, and the same is true for many people with arthritis and pain. If alternatives exist, they’re often dangerous and less effective than MMJ.
Not surprisingly, the study found more young people, 9 percent, use medical marijuana, contrasted with 2 percent of seniors. White Californians are more likely to use than other ethnic groups, but only slightly, and there’s very little gender difference.
“The absolute difference in prevalence between the racial/ethnic groups is less than three percentage points, which may not have much importance in practical terms,” the authors of the study said.