In May 2020, CCOE and UMass Dartmouth launched an online anonymous survey titled the “COVID-19 and Cannabis and Patient Consumer Study,” scheduled to run from May 2020 to August 2021. This anonymous survey seeks to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both medical cannabis patients and adult-use consumers. In this short blog post, we wanted to share some of our preliminary results.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting from around the world has highlighted the ongoing relationship between cannabis use and the pandemic. (1) Not only have people been using cannabis more frequently (with 47% reporting increased use in our survey), often as a treatment for symptoms of anxiety and depression (2), but the social and economic significance of the legal industry is reflected in the widespread designation of cannabis businesses as essential across the US and in Canada. (3,4) In science and medicine, cannabis has likewise been the focus of the development of potential treatments and preventative medicines for COVID-19, such as ongoing research related to CBD and viral modes of infection by researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Canada and the University of Maryland. (See a list of ongoing medicinal cannabis and COVID-19 research here).
We wanted to understand how people who use cannabis in Massachusetts were experiencing this wider relationship between cannabis and the pandemic. The anonymous data will be used to inform the public, healthcare providers, and policy makers about the impact of COVID-19 on cannabis patients, consumers, and marginalized populations. This survey reflects our efforts to develop citizen and community driven, clinical, public health, and industry recommendations and education materials to better understand and advocate for medical cannabis patient and adult-use consumers amid the pandemic. Since launching the survey, we have received 187 responses as of September 9th, 2020. Some initial demographics below:
One important finding that agrees with journalistic reporting is that respondents are primarily using cannabis to treat symptoms of ‘Anxiety’ (72%) and ‘Depression’ (69%), across both medical and adult-use respondents. These respondents report feeling nervous and on edge since the pandemic started, with many (49%) seeking relief for their insomnia. This is an interesting finding because earlier surveys about reasons for medical use often place chronic pain as the top condition (with 53% of respondents continuing to use cannabis for pain in our survey). This early finding might reflect the psychological burden of the pandemic situation, as well as the versatility of cannabis as a potential treatment for both physical and psychological symptoms. Indeed, 79% of our respondents report that, in general, cannabis improves their quality of life by alleviating psychological symptoms of all sorts.
Another important early finding is that 50% of respondents are actively using cannabis to reduce other medication use during the pandemic. 20% of this group of respondents are using cannabis to reduce anti-depressant use, followed by a wide variety of other pharmaceutical medicines:
Alongside an interest in medical data, our survey also asks about methods of consumption and cannabis purchasing practices during the pandemic. So far we have found that 53% of respondents prefer to use cannabis flower as their top method of consumption, followed by edibles at 13%, and vape cartridges at 11%.
A related finding is that 25% of our respondents report having started to grow cannabis at home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, perhaps reflecting the influence of social distancing and stay-at-home advisories on people’s gardening habits. Importantly, however, many of our respondents note that they do not have the time or expense to begin growing for themselves, nor to access cannabis in general, including 15% needing to home school their children, 22% reporting job and income loss, and 10% reporting having to move or change living situations. These early findings about the relationships between the social and economic issues brought on by the pandemic and questions of access to cannabis medicines reflect only a preliminary example of the range of related data we are collecting through the survey.
We look forward to continuing the survey until August 2021, allowing us to analyze changes in the data over time as the pandemic progresses and new respondents continue to access the survey.
Thank you to our study partners, we could not do this important work without their support!