Chronic pain is the most common reason people give when they enroll in state-approved medical marijuana programs.
That’s followed by stiffness from multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy-related nausea, according to an analysis of 15 states published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.
The study didn’t measure whether marijuana actually helped anyone with their problems, but the patients’ reasons match up with what’s known about the science of marijuana and its chemical components.
“The majority of patients for whom we have data are using cannabis for reasons where the science is the strongest,” said lead author Kevin Boehnke of University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
California became the first state to allow medical use of marijuana in 1996. More than 30 states now allow marijuana for dozens of health problems. Lists of allowable conditions vary by state, but in general, a doctor must certify a patient has an approved diagnosis.
While the U.S. government has approved medicines based on compounds found in the plant, it considers marijuana illegal and imposes limits on research. That’s led to states allowing some diseases and symptoms where rigorous science is lacking. Most of the evidence comes from studying pharmaceuticals based on marijuana ingredients, not from studies of smoked marijuana or edible forms.
Dementia and glaucoma, for example, are conditions where marijuana hasn’t proved valuable, but some states include them. Many states allow Parkinson’s disease or post-traumatic stress disorder where evidence is limited.
The analysis is based on 2016 data from the 15 states that reported the reasons given for using marijuana. Researchers compared the symptoms and conditions with a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence: a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
About 85 percent of patients’ reasons were supported by substantial or conclusive evidence in the National Academies report.
The study shows people are