Posted on Apr. 20, 2016

    Here's What Canadian Medical Marijuana Users Say Is Their Biggest Challenge

    Many still prefer to smoke their cannabis, and a significant number get it from grey market or illegal suppliers.

    Rebecca Hendin for BuzzFeed Canada

    With the Liberal government moving toward legalization of marijuana, BuzzFeed Canada wanted to give a voice to Canadian medical marijuana users on 4/20. We asked them to tell us how they use the drug, how long they've had a prescription, and what condition(s) they use it to treat, among other things.

    The results are based on responses to an online survey from 244 Canadians in nine provinces and two territories. (See the bottom of this article for more details about the survey methodology.)

    Here's a look at the key results.

    Nearly 70% of respondents received their marijuana prescription within the last four years.

    Rebecca Hendin for BuzzFeed Canada

    Almost as many respondents get their marijuana from dispensaries as from federally-licensed distributors. A fifth of medical marijuana patients surveyed say they grow their own pot.

    Rebecca Hendin for BuzzFeed Canada

    Canadian law requires medical marijuana users to obtain their medicine from a federally-licensed distributor. Some can also grow their own supply or purchase it from a designated grower, as part of older regulations that are currently still in force but may be changed in the coming months.

    In spite of the law, more than 35% of survey respondents instead choose to go to grey-market dispensaries/compassion clubs, or to a private dealer.

    The majority of those surveyed prefer to smoke or vape the drug.

    Rebecca Hendin for BuzzFeed Canada

    Around 34% of respondents said they prefer to smoke pot, and 33% say they vape it. Edibles and drinkables came in third at 8%, with oil and tinctures barely on the radar of the patients we surveyed.

    "I was surprised to see how many patients only just smoke it," said John Lorenz, director of the Cannabis Patients Association of Canada. "More patients need to be educated on other ways of using marijuana."

    When we asked which marijuana strains users preferred, we received a buffet of replies, ranging from OG Shark ("great for migraine treatment") to Mettrum Blue 1 ("it makes my pain manageable"). The strain making an appearance most often was kush, an indica-dominant variety of strains best known for "couch lock" – you'll be so rocked by this bud, you won't be able to do much but stay on the couch.

    Pain management was the most common reason cited for using medical marijuana.

    Rebecca Hendin for BuzzFeed Canada

    A whopping 43% of respondents said pain was the reason they medicate with marijuana. The second most common ailment was low on the percentage list – anxiety at 7%. This question elicited the widest range of responses, suggesting that marijuana is being used to treat an array of conditions.

    The medical marijuana users surveyed said they are most concerned about restrictions around growing their own plants.

    Rebecca Hendin for BuzzFeed Canada

    A recent court decision gave the government six months to come up with new rules for home-grown medical marijuana, so this issue is top of mind for many patients.

    "Let us grow and be reasonable about it," said one respondent from Alberta. "A person growing six plants in their home is not the same as someone growing 40 or more. We need to remove the criminal element from cannabis."

    The patient concern that most stood out to Lorenz was related to how patients would access marijuana once it was legalized.

    "I saw a lot of 'Don't put it in liquor stores.'" he said. "But what I'd also like to see as an important consideration is quality control and testing."

    In fact, quality control rarely came up in the replies from patients on what they'd like to tell the Liberal government about legalization.

    How we gathered the data: BuzzFeed Canada distributed an online survey to medical marijuana patients across Canada with the assistance of licensed medical marijuana distributors, advocacy organizations, and dispensaries including: Tweed Inc, MariCann Inc., NORML Canada, WomenGrow Vancouver, Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana, the B.C. Compassion Club Society, the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the Cannabis Patients Association of Canada. We received a total of 342 responses and then eliminated those who said they do not currently have a medical prescription for marijuana. That left us with 244 respondents from all provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Labrador.

    For more than 20 years, David Silverberg has been writing articles, poetry and producing shows in Toronto and across Canada. He was previously editor-in-chief of Digital Journal, an online news network featuring journalism from around the world. David has written for the Globe & Mail, Vice, Canadian Business, Quill & Quire, High Times, DesignEdge Magazine, Canadian Jewish News and many more.

    Contact David Silverberg at

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