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Cannabis use among young adults in the state of Florida: A comparison of medical cannabis patients and non-patient cannabis users

Jason Ford
University of Central Florida

Co-authors: Stephen Lankenau1
1Drexel University

Objective: As state laws regulating cannabis use have changed in recent years that has been a corresponding increase in the prevalence of cannabis use, particularly among young adults. Since the repeal of a ban on smoking medical cannabis in 2019, the state of Florida has seen a dramatic increase in both the number of treatment centers and qualified patients. The primary goal of the current research is to compare medical cannabis patients (MCP) to non-patient cannabis users (NPCU) along demographic characteristics, characteristics of cannabis use, and health-related conditions.

Methods: The Florida Young Adult Cannabis Study included respondents aged 18 to 34, who had used cannabis products at least three times in the past 90-days and were residents of the state of Florida during the previous 12-months. Participants were recruited during the winter of 2020 via an online survey panel program, Qualtrics Inc. Participants included 900 individuals who submitted complete survey data, including 415 MCP and 485 NPCU.

Results: A sizeable portion of the sample reported motives for cannabis use that were inconsistent with their “patient” status, as 13% of MCP endorsed primarily/exclusively recreational motives, while 31% of NPCU endorsed primarily/exclusively self-treatment motives. Regarding demographic characteristics, MCP were more likely to be male, college graduates, employed, and have health insurance compared to NPCU. Additionally, MCP were more likely to report several different forms of cannabis (e.g., edibles, concentrates), to microdose, and be CBD-dominant users compared to NPCU. However, NPCU initiated regular cannabis at a younger age and reported more daily use than MCP. Regarding social characteristics of cannabis use, MCP reported more sources of cannabis, used cannabis with different groups of people, and identified more sources of information about cannabis compared to NPCU. Finally, MCP were more likely to report pain interferes with daily activities, suicidal ideation, symptoms associated with PTSD, and COVID-19 related medical issues than NPCU.

Conclusion: The current research identified several significant differences between MCP and NPCU and informs state-level policy. Relative to NPCU, MCP used for self-treatment motives, used safer forms of cannabis, initiated regular cannabis use at an older age, and used cannabis less frequently.

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