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Association Between Cannabis Information Source and Illicit Cannabis Use in a State Medical Cannabis Program

Carter Reeves
University of Utah

Co-Authors: A. Taylor Kelley1,2, Lirit Franks1, Michael A Incze1, Adam J Gordon1,2, Gerald Cochran1,2
1University of Utah, 2VA Salt Lake City Healthcare

Objective: To identify reliance on different sources of medical cannabis information among participants in a state medical cannabis program and the impact of source reliance on illicit cannabis used medicinally.

Background: Medical cannabis (MC) is now used by nearly 4 million individuals across the US, making access to accurate MC information imperative to ensure safe MC use practices and optimize outcomes for this population. Understanding which sources of MC information individuals rely upon most, as well as the impact of this information on illicit medical cannabis use, could therefore be valuable in helping state MC programs maximize benefits for MC users and reduce possible harms from illicit cannabis used medicinally.

Methods: Design and Participants: In this exploratory analysis of baseline data from a prospective cohort study, we analyzed survey results from adult patients newly enrolled (<6 months) in Utah’s MC program. Assessments: Participants self-reported their reliance on different sources of MC information (where participants receive their information), whether they accessed illicit medical cannabis and motivations for doing so. Analysis: We analyzed demographics using descriptive statistics. Differences in reliance on sources of MC information were analyzed using Wilcoxon rank-sum tests. We used binominal logistic regression to determine associations between MC information source reliance and illicit medical cannabis use, controlling for other drivers of illicit medical cannabis use (ensuring adequate supply and cost.)

Results: The sample included 211 MC program participants (mean age 39.3, SD=0.81, 56.6% female, 84.4% white, 11.3% Hispanic/Latinx, 19.1% rural). Of the participants, 11.8% reported current use of illicit medical cannabis. Participants were most likely to report reliance on information from dispensary pharmacists (54.9%), followed by card-issuing health care providers (44.7%), friends/peers (39.9%), and the internet (29.8%), which all had significantly higher levels of reliance than the Utah MC program’s resources (17.9%, P’s<0.01). In binomial regression analysis, when the majority of participants’ information came from the Utah MC program resources, the odds of using illicit medical cannabis decreased (AOR=0.02, p0.05).

Conclusion: Despite the low percentage of individuals relying upon Utah’s MC program, this source of information may be effective in attenuating medicinal use of illicit cannabis. Future research is needed to determine what type of information disseminated through Utah’s MC program was most impactful to reduce illicit medical cannabis use.