Reasonable access: important characteristics and perceived quality of legal and illegal sources of cannabis for medical purposes in Canada

Thumbnail Image
Capler, N. R.
Balneaves, Lynda
Buxton, Jane A.
Kerr, Thomas
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
BioMed Central (BMC)
Abstract Background Throughout the past two decades of legal medical cannabis in Canada, individuals have experienced challenges related to accessing legal sources of cannabis for medical purposes. The objective of our study was to examine the sources of cannabis accessed by individuals authorized to use medical cannabis and to identify possible reasons for their use of illegal sources. Methods Individuals who participated in the Cannabis Access Regulations Study (CANARY), a national cross-sectional survey launched in 2014, and indicated they were currently authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes in Canada were included in this study. We assessed differences between participants accessing cannabis from only legal sources versus from illegal sources in relation to sociodemographic characteristics, health-related factors, and characteristics of medical cannabis they considered important. A secondary analysis assessed differences in satisfaction with various dimensions of cannabis products and services provided by legal versus illegal sources. Results Half of the 237 study participants accessed cannabis from illegal sources. Individuals accessing cannabis from illegal sources were significantly more likely to value pesticide-free products, access to a variety of strains, ability to select strain and dosage, ability to observe and smell cannabis, availability in a dispensary, and availability in small quantities than did individuals accessing cannabis from only legal sources (all p < 0.05). Additionally, participants gave significantly higher satisfaction scores to illegal sources than to legal sources on service-related dimensions of cannabis access (all p < 0.05). Conclusion Our findings contribute to an understanding of reasonable access to medical cannabis from a patient perspective and how to assess whether it has been achieved. Characteristics of cannabis products and services valued by patients and appropriate to their needs should be incorporated into legal medical cannabis programs to promote the use of legal medical sources. While pertaining specifically to medical use of cannabis in Canada, the findings of this study may also be instructive for understanding the use of illegal cannabis sources for non-medical purposes in Canada and provide insight for other jurisdictions implementing cannabis regulations for both medical and non-medical purposes.
medical cannabis, prescription, drug acquistion, patient perceptions, drug safety
Journal of Cannabis Research. 2023 Jun 09;5(1):18