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2023 Study: U.S. Medical Cannabis Self-identity Characteristics

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

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A February 2023 study entitled "Medical Cannabis Identity and Public Health Paternalism" that was published in the journal Public Health in Practice examined the relationship "between 'state' and 'self' medical cannabis user identities and the ways non-medical users understand their cannabis consumption."


The design of this mixed methods study consisted of "semi-structured interviews and survey data." The researchers also conducted a second analysis to explore the relationship between state sanctioned medical cannabis status and identity that involved data from the 2021 Cannabis Consumer Survey conducted by New Frontier Data.

Image courtesy Darryl Glubczynski


Results

The study revealed that, based on this particular set of data, cannabis consumers tend to self-identify "beyond the dichotomy of medical versus recreational" and that about half (52 percent) of consumers identify as both medical and researctional cannabis users.


The researchers observed that one's cannabis identity is related to whether they hold a medical cannabis card and the type of market in which they purchase (medical or adult-use). "Because the consumer does not control their qualification for a state-sanctioned medical cannabis card or their state market type, it can be hypothesized that these variables influence self-identity—and not the other way around," suggested the study's authors.


Medical cannabis card holders were more likely to consider marijuana an important part of their identity "than former or those who were never card holders."

Interesting, those who self-defined as strictly medical or strictly recreational were most likely to "reject cannabis as an important part of their identity." These groups were also found to consume less cannabis than those who identify as being part of both groups.


Medical cannabis card holders were more likely to consider marijuana an important part of their identity "than former or those who were never card holders." The study's authors interpreted this to mean that the acceptance of a cannabis identity is related to one's status as a state-sanctioned medical cannabis patient. The researchers noted that this acceptance may require "overcoming stigma and using techniques like disclosure and identity formation to address internalized stigma."


Conclusions

The study suggested that humans may universally pursue an altered state of mind and that it might even be referenced in the pursuit of happiness that is included in the U.S. Declaration of Independence.


"However, Protestant preoccupations with self-control, sobriety, and thrift within U.S. culture discourage drug consumption for purely recreational purposes," reported the research, noting the sometimes significant cultural opposition faced by the cannabis community and medical cannabis consumers.


"Protestant preoccupations with self-control, sobriety, and thrift within U.S. culture discourage drug consumption for purely recreational purposes," noted the study.

It noted that the structures of medical cannabis programs in the U.S., including approved conditions, have not resulted in "clearly defining populations of those who need access to cannabis and those who do not." The scientists reported that those who perceive themselves as medical cannabis users exist in all segments, including underground (legacy) markets and legal adult-use populations.


Of interest is the fact that the study observed that "even those who reject the identity of 'medical user' report positive experiences from cannabis," including it's role in improving their overall well-being and the fact that many used cannabis as a substitute "for more harmful substances.


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