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Prevalence of Qualifying Medical Conditions across Florida Medical Marijuana Patients and Florida’s General Population

Sebastian Jugl
University of Florida

Co-Authors: Nicole E. Smolinski1, Tansu Aydogan1, Almut G. Winterstein1
1University of Florida

Medical Marijuana (MMJ) has been accessible to Floridians with specific medical conditions since 2017. Little is known about the uptake of MMJ across each of these conditions. This study aimed to compare the prevalence of qualifying conditions among MMJ patients with the population-based prevalence of these conditions in Florida.

We extracted the number of each condition listed on MMJ certifications from the 2020 Physician Certification Pattern Review Annual Report, covering the time between October 1, 2018, and September 30, 2019. We then searched scientific peer-reviewed literature and national reports for population-based prevalences of conditions in Florida.  If no Florida-specific estimates were available, we prioritized estimates reported for the southern part of the US over national estimates.

The three conditions with the highest prevalence in Florida’s general population were chronic nonmalignant pain (CNP) (20.4%), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (4.7%), and glaucoma (2.1%), whereas amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) had the lowest prevalence (0.004 %). The conditions with the most significant representation in MMJ certification were CNP (36.2%), PTSD (23.9%), and cancer (6.9%), not considering medical conditions of the same kind (25.2%). The conditions with the smallest proportion in certifications were acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and ALS (0.1 %).
By comparing the distributions of conditions on certifications to prevalence estimates in Florida\’s general population, our analysis suggests that certain health conditions had higher representation in certifications than expected, including PTSD (23.9% to 4.7%), multiple sclerosis (1.3% to 0.3%), and ALS (0.1% to 0.004%). Conversely, glaucoma (1.5% to 2.1%) and AIDS (0.1% to 0.3%) were underrepresented in certifications.

The prevalence of conditions listed on MMJ certifications suggest differences in the extent to which MMJ is used as treatment modality. Further research is needed to explore whether and how these discrepancies correlate with perceived or evidence-supported risk-benefit profiles of medical marijuana for each of the medical conditions.

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