Drexel University researchers examined the effects of California’s 2016 recreational cannabis use law among young adult medical cannabis patients (MCP) and non-patient users (NPU). The study found that increasing acceptance of cannabis and lower patient prices are key reasons why many participants remained MCP. The results were published in the Journal of Drug Issues.
A total of 30 young adult cannabis users participated in the Drexel study. They were qualitatively interviewed in Los Angeles between 2020-21. The participants were categorized into three groups: 3 MCP who always had a medical cannabis recommendation, 6 NPU who never had a recommendation, and 21 MCP-to-NPU who previously had medical recommendations but changed to non-patient user status after recreational use legalization.
Of the participants classified as MCP-to-NPU and NPU, many remained NPU due to destigmatization of cannabis use and increased legal security. Some participants reported less need for a medical cannabis recommendation after recreational use legalization. Some costs such as recreational cannabis product price increases, the obstacles of finding a physician and the related medical cannabis application and annual fees resulted in some participants seeking less expensive cannabis from unregulated legacy-market dispensaries.
Drexel University’s Medical Cannabis Research Center has identified key areas for future research on destigmatization, cannabis use, and policy changes. Research focusing on the stigma that cannabis users face after legalization would shed light on factors impacting cannabis access and use. Research on cannabis consumer behavior and attitudes will shed light on why MCPS and NPUs seek out illegal-market alternatives is critical. There is limited research comparing product quality of medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, and black-market sources. Research addressing these topics will help reduce negative unintended outcomes such as MCPs purchasing low quality or contaminated cannabis products from unregulated markets.