The debate over marijuana is raging — except among the patients who use it.
A new study from the Public Health Institute found that 92% of Californians who use medical marijuana say it helps them deal with their ailments. That runs counter to claims of legalization opponents, such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who called it “one of the great hoaxes of all time.”
Legalization isn’t without its policy snags: The Colorado Supreme Court is weighing if an employee can be fired for using medical marijuana despite its legal status.
But whether the drug is effective for patients seems to be a closed case, and this study knocks down a myth believed by many opposed to legalization: that legalization of medical marijuana leads to widespread pot use.
“Our study contradicts commonly held beliefs that medical marijuana is being overused by healthy individuals,” the authors wrote, noting that patients suffer from a variety of conditions, including arthritis, migraines and cancer. “[The] results lend support to the idea that medical marijuana is used equally by many groups of people and is not exclusively used by any one specific group.”
According to the study, about 5% of California adults are medical marijuana users. While white adults and adults ages 18 to 24 were the most common users, every age and racial group had at least a 2% usage rate. Support for medical pot’s positive effects cuts across demographic lines.
Chronic pain was the most common condition reported among users, at about 31%. Arthritis and cancer were next at 11%, with migraines following at 8%.
It’s not just patients who support the drug. A survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year found that 76% of doctors approve of medical marijuana. The study sampled doctors from around the world.
A Pew Research Center poll from earlier this year revealed that three-quarters of respondents think marijuana will eventually be legal nationwide. 23 states currently allow it for medicinal use, while two states — Colorado and Washington — have legalized recreational use. Both numbers could go up depending on the outcome of numerous November ballot initiatives in states including Alaska, Florida and Oregon.
For now, the question of whether medical marijuana works has been answered by those who know best — patients themselves.