U.S. medical cannabis enrollments quadrupled from 2016 to 2020

According to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, a growing number of people in the United States are participating in medical marijuana programs, with the total exceeding 2.97 million by 2020, more than quadrupling the number of people registered in 2016.

Participants in these programs are able to purchase marijuana for medical purposes. Despite the fact that marijuana remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the National Conference of State Legislatures says that as of February, 37 states, the District of Columbia, and four US territories had approved it for medical use.

State rules vary on which health conditions qualify someone for participation, but the study’s researchers discovered that chronic pain (reported by roughly 61 percent of enrollees) is the most prevalent ailment cited by current participants, followed by post-traumatic stress disorder (11 percent).

Multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting are among the diseases that may qualify persons for participation, depending on their state’s laws.

People must obtain a doctor’s referral and register with their state’s registry to participate in a medicinal marijuana program. They are then issued a card that allows them to purchase medical marijuana from an authorized dispensary for a price. It comes in a variety of forms, including tablet, powder, liquid, oil, and dried leaves. 

Medicinal marijuana is also known as medical cannabis, after the Cannabis sativa plant from which it is derived. The active ingredients in marijuana include THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) (cannabidiol).

The Food and Drug Administration has licensed a few marijuana-based pharmaceuticals to treat cancer, AIDS, and infantile epilepsy, and numerous additional drugs are undergoing clinical studies to establish their safety and effectiveness.

However, one-third of program participants take medical cannabis “for diseases or symptoms for which there is no meaningful evidence base,” according to the study’s authors.

This piece is part of The Washington Post’s “Big Number” series, which examines the statistical side of health issues. The hyperlinks provide access to additional information and pertinent research.

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