Study Shows Medical Cannabis Program Growth 2016 To 2020

A new study shows increased medical cannabis program enrollment in recent years.

The study, which focuses recent medical cannabis licensing trends in the United States, used registry data from state reports and data requests on medical cannabis licensing from 2016 to 2020.

The study authors say that 26 states and Washington D.C. reported patient numbers, and 19 states reported patient-qualifying conditions.

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) division provided primary funding for the study.

University of Michigam Medical School’s Kevin Boehnke conducted the study with Owen Dean, Rebecca Haffajee, and Avinash Hosanagar.

Study measurements included patient volume, patents per 10,000 of total population, and patient-reported qualifying conditions.

According to study authors, they also measured whether patient symptoms aligned with current therapeutic evidence of cannabis-cannabinoid efficacy.

The study authors say that, in an age of ever-expanding medical and adult-use legalization, ongoing analysis can help shape the future of both markets.

“Cannabis policy liberalization has increased cannabis availability for medical and recreational purposes,” state study authors. “Up-to-date trends in medical cannabis licensure can inform clinical policy and care.”

Study Results

According to the results, total enrolled patients increased approximately 4.5-fold between 2016 and 2020, from 678,408 to 2,974,443.

Study authors say the number of patients per 10,000 total population grew between 2016 and 2020, most dramatically in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma enrollment was 927.1 patients per 10,000 population, nearly 10 percent.

But while medical cannabis program enrollment increased from 2016 to 2020, study authors say it was only in states without active adult-use policies.

Five out of seven states that legalized adult-use cannabis saw a decrease in medical cannabis program enrollment.

The authors say missing state data and lack of rationale for discontinuing medical cannabis licensure limited the study.

According to study authors, chronic pain was the most common qualifying condition that patients reported in 2020, at 60.6 percent.

PTSD was the second-most common qualifying condition at 10.6 percent.

Study authors conclude that while medical cannabis program enrollment increased approximately 4.5-fold from 2016 to 2020, enrollment decreased in states with adult-use cannabis.

The authors say the number of people using cannabis for symptoms without proof of efficacy grew from 15.4 percent in 2016 to 31.8 percent in 2020.

According to the authors, thoughtful clinical and regulatory strategies are crucial to managing cannabis’ rapidly-changing landscape.