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Access to Cannabis Products for Patients With Cancer in a State With Restrictive Medical Marijuana Laws


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Results of a survey reported by Singh et al in the Journal of Oncology Practice found that a population of primarily patients with cancer enrolled in Georgia’s medical marijuana program reported concerns about the legality of marijuana-related products and their ability to obtain the products.

As noted by the investigators, several states, including Georgia, have restrictive medical marijuana laws that permit qualified patients to use specific cannabis products; however, most do not provide resources for access to cannabis products, such as in-state dispensaries.

Study Details

The study consisted of a survey of patients registered for medical marijuana (low tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] oil cards) as part of a state-approved low THC oil program in an ambulatory palliative care practice in Georgia. The medical marijuana law in Georgia allows registered patients to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil, with the amount of THC in the oil being less than 5% by weight.

All 101 patients invited to participate in the survey provided responses. Among the 101 patients, reasons for access to the program were advanced cancer in 76% (plus cancer not specified as advanced in 3%), with other conditions including peripheral neuropathy (17%), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or multiple sclerosis (1%), seizures or epilepsy (1%), and Crohn’s disease (1%). Among the patients, 56% were male and 64% were aged older than 50 years.

Key Survey Findings

Ninety-five percent of patients reported marijuana-related products to be important or extremely important for reducing pain.

Sixty-eight percent were concerned or very concerned about their ability to obtain marijuana-related products, and 64% were concerned or very concerned about legal status of marijuana-related products.

Thirteen percent reported using products containing more than 5% THC oil (13%) and 20% reported using a nonoil form of cannabis.

KEY POINTS

  • 95% of patients reported marijuana-related products to be important or extremely important for reducing pain.
  • 68% were concerned or very concerned about their ability to obtain marijuana-related products, and 64% were concerned or very concerned about legal status of marijuana-related products.

The most common method of obtaining marijuana-related products reported was shipping from a state where manufacturing and retail of cannabis products is legal (57%), with other methods including private suppliers (32%) and dispensaries (10%; in-state vs out-of-state location not specified in survey).

Forty-eight percent of patients reported reliance on their physician for information on marijuana-related products, with 25% using the internet and 10% using friends and family as the primary source of information. Sixty-two percent reported that their health-care providers were supportive of their cannabis use, and 79% reported that family members were supportive; 15% had not discussed cannabis use with medical providers other than the physician they had first discussed marijuana-related products with.

The investigators concluded, “Patients on Georgia’s medical marijuana program are most concerned about the legality of the product and their ability to obtain marijuana-related products. Therefore, we recommend that states with medical marijuana laws should provide safe and reliable access to cannabis products for qualifying patients.”

Vinita Singh, MD, of Emory University Hospital Midtown, Emory University School of Medicine, is the corresponding author for the Journal of Oncology Practice article.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit jop.ascopubs.org.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.
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