Did the stressors of COVID-19 drive more Americans to use medical cannabis as an alternative tool for managing their mental health? A new national study exploring this question found a positive correlation between national demand for medical cannabis and the national number of COVID-19 cases; in other words, as cases increased, so did medical cannabis use. And whereas the most common reason for obtaining a medical card has historically been for chronic pain, the majority of medical cannabis patients who applied for medical cards over the past year cited psychological purposes, with 55% of patients saying their main reason for using cannabis was “to feel ‘happy.”
These findings are part of a national study conducted by Veriheal, the healthcare enterprise behind the nation’s largest medical marijuana application platform, in partnership with graduate research scholars from the London School of Economics, University of Southern California and University of Maryland; and the CREA (Cultivating Research Education and Advocacy) Group, a business development and research firm dedicated to psychoactive drugs like cannabinoids, psychedelics, and entheogens. The findings were officially presented to the American Chemical Society, a congressionally chartered non-profit leading research in the global chemical enterprise, at their April 2021 national conference.
Conducted between January 2020 and March 2021, the study investigated medical cannabis interest and adoption by desired effect across region, sex and age group, in relation to COVID-19 cases in America as reported by the official COVID-19 CDC data tracker. Patient data was obtained from surveys on the Veriheal telemedicine platform, which connects prospective cannabis patients to state-certified cannabis doctors to facilitate and streamline the medical marijuana (MMJ) card application process.
Key findings from the study indicate that:
- 55% of medical cannabis users primarily seek to feel ‘happy’; 29% to feel ‘relief’; 7% to feel ‘relaxed’; 5% to feel ‘sleepy’
- Happiness is the primary reason for medical cannabis use among 39% of Boomers; 45% of Gen X; 28% of Millenials and 29% of Gen Z.
- Millenials are most inclined to obtain a medical cannabis recommendation during COVID case spikes, followed by Gen X and Gen Z.
“When we began investigating the relationship between medical cannabis use and COVID-19, our original hypothesis was that cannabis demand would increase with COVID-19 cases as people sought out physiological relief and ways to manage stress,” said Maha Haq, CEO of CREA and graduate student at University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy. “We were stunned to find the results actually nullify that hypothesis. Instead, we found that people are seeking psychological relief in response to exogenous shocks including COVID-19 and beyond. Periods of social unrest, such as the Black Lives Matter protests and 2020 elections, can be seen as spikes in medical cannabis interest within our datasets.”
Indeed, data from the study reflected in the graph above shows that sign-ups for medical cannabis consultations (dark blue), representing interest; and medical cannabis appointments (light blue), representing adoption; both rose in tandem with COVID-19 case spikes in Spring 2020 and Spring 2021, Black Lives Matter protests in Summer 2020, the Presidential pre-election in late summer and the attempted coup at the US Capitol in January 2021.
“Medical cannabis has traditionally been viewed as an alternative treatment for relieving physical pain and chronic ailments,” said Ms. Haq. “That most people are actually looking to the plant to ease psychological stressors, often related to external social upheaval, is an incredibly important discovery that helps medical professionals better understand evolving consumer relationships with cannabis, and from there, improve the quality of their treatment and related mental healthcare programs.”
The study’s findings also offer insight into medical cannabis as a cultural phenomenon, bolstering marketing initiatives over the past year, which have increasingly focused on branding and differentiating cannabis via its emotional impact rather than its physiological effects. The practice captures the attitudes of the new cannabis consumer, and further prompts us to examine cannabis’ evolving position in the American cultural zeitgeist.
“It’s incredible to see Veriheal’s patient database being leveraged for insights on the complexities of medical cannabis use in America,” said Joshua Green, Veriheal’s co-founder and CEO. “This is exactly the kind of application we dreamed of when we initially created our platform. What’s even more satisfying is to have CREA and Maha Haq, a 2020 recipient of our Innovation in Cannabis Scholarship, play an integral role in bringing this study to fruition.”
Earlier this year, Veriheal announced a $20,000 Innovation in Cannabis scholarship to fund students pursuing degrees in the cannabis industry. The scholarship, which launched in 2020 with $10,000 in awards, has been doubled this year to offer 20 grants in the amount of $1,000 each to qualifying student applicants.
Veriheal was founded by Samuel Adetunji and Joshua Green in 2017 with a mission to become the go-to online destination for prospective medical cannabis patients looking to obtain an MMJ card and access educational resources. For a one-time $199 fee, Veriheal streamlines and facilitates the end-to-end application process by connecting users to state-licensed doctors who can certify qualifying conditions via telehealth or in-person appointments — a requirement for all medical cannabis programs. Qualifying patients receive a doctor’s recommendation and are supported through the process of applying for and obtaining their medical marijuana card.
To view the complete study, click here.
Veriheal is a healthcare technology company with a mission to provide personalized cannabis education and wellness to everyone around the world. The Veriheal platform fulfills this mission by connecting prospective patients with state-certified medical marijuana doctors online, to provide customized medical recommendations for people seeking a better quality of life through cannabis. To learn more about the Veriheal platform, please visit www.veriheal.com.