Report: California Has 1.9 Million Very Happy Medical Marijuana Users

Chris Roberts, SF Weekly

Pretty much anyone can access medical marijuana in California, provided they have $40 and 10 minutes to sit with a doctor. And pretty much everyone with a card is getting legitimate medical benefits from cannabis, a new study says.

About 1.4 million people in the state have used medical marijuana, according to the Oakland-based Public Health Institute, which is roughly double most estimates of how many of our 38 million people have a medical cannabis recommendation. And there are nearly 4 million recreational smokers in the state. In other words, there are roughly as many weedheads as there are people in Palestine or Ireland.

And of those, a full 92 percent say they've received healing or some measure of relief from symptoms including chronic pain, nausea, insomnia, and anxiety, the study found.

Weed advocates say the study confirms what they've been saying for nearly 20 years: medical marijuana is not a joke. Will cops and other Prohibitionists finally change their tune?

Study authors Suzanne Ryan-Ibarra, Marta Induni, and Danielle Ewing crunched data from a 2012 state telephone survey to figure out who used the drug, why, and for what purpose. Their findings, published in Drug and Alcohol Review, show that the answer is pretty much everyone.

Most people who reported using marijuana were white and young (between 18 and 24 years old). However, every ethnic group and population category reported using the drug, at rates between 2 and 9 percent, according to the study.

Some 92 percent of users said that it worked, the study found. That surprised even the authors, who wrote "to get that kind agreement on anything is pretty astounding."

"Our study contradicts commonly held beliefs that medical marijuana is being overused by healthy individuals," the authors wrote. "A perception persists that medical marijuana users may not 'need' to use it to treat a serious medical condition. Our study found evidence via anonymous, self-reported data that users commonly employed medical marijuana to treat serious medical conditions."

"It is surprising that stigma continues to be experienced by those that utilize medical marijuana."

For years, police and prosecutors refused to view medical weed as anything other than a sham and a hoax, unsophisticated cover for outright drug dealing and recreational pot smoking. This is changing, slowly. This year, the cop lobby got around to admitting that weed helps some people, maybe. Still,  most law enforcement types will tell you medical weed is a joke. 

Marijuana advocates say that the study confirms what they've maintained all along: the state's medical marijuana laws help make the state healthier. "The study roundly rejects the argument that medical cannabis is a smoke screen or a sham," said Don Duncan, the California director of national medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.