Quarter of cancer patients use marijuana


The legal status of cannabis strong influences the decision to use it to manage symptoms, a US study finds. Andrew Masterson reports.


In the US state of Washington, where medical marijuana is legal, it is used by a quarter of cancer patients.
In the US state of Washington, where medical marijuana is legal, it is used by a quarter of cancer patients.
David McNew / Getty

One quarter of cancer patients in a US state where medical marijuana is legal used the drug during the past year, a study has found.

In a paper published in the journal Cancer, a team led by Steven Pergam of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre, Seattle, Washington, concluded that legalising marijuana was likely to increase its therapeutic use.

Pergam and his colleagues surveyed 926 cancer patients in Washington state, where access to marijuana for both therapeutic and recreational purposes is legal. They found that 24% of them had used the drug in the past year, while 22% had used in the past month.

About 70% of active users reported inhaling marijuana, with the same percentage also incorporating it into food. Around 40% used both methods.

Pergam’s team found that 75% of users did so to relieve physical symptoms, and 63% used it to manage “neuropsychiatric” conditions.

The study also found that the legal status of marijuana was an important factor for many patients when deciding to use it. It also found that significant numbers patients wanted information from their oncologists about marijuana use to assist them in making decisions, but that this information was often not being provided.


In the summer edition of Cosmos – which hits the stores on October 5 – editor-in-chief Elizabeth Finkel examines the vexed science of medical marijuana, which finds researchers racing to find double-blind evidence to support anecdotal and observational testimony.

  1. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.30879
  2. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.30879
  3. https://cosmosmagazine.com/issues/the-bad-science-of-medical-cannabis
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