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Addict Behav. 2019 Jun;93:233-239. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.02.003. Epub 2019 Feb 7.

Prevalence and correlates of medical cannabis patients' use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

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Oberlin College, Department of Psychology, 120 West Lorain Street, Oberlin, OH 44074, USA. Electronic address:
Oberlin College, Department of Psychology, 120 West Lorain Street, Oberlin, OH 44074, USA. Electronic address:



Rates of legal medical cannabis (MC) use are increasing, but little is known about the prevalence and correlates of recreational cannabis (RC) use among medical users (MC/R).


348 MC users who resided in a state in which MC is legal and had medical authorization to use MC legally completed an anonymous survey in Spring 2017 (64.1% female, 82.8% White, mean age 33.03[±10.37] years). Rates of endorsing MC/R and the following potential correlates of MC/R were examined: the legal status of RC in participants' states of residence, sex, age, race, primary medical condition, MC product(s) used, MC expectancies, features of MC sought out (e.g., high tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] content), and negative cannabis use consequences.


55.5% of MC users engaged in MC/R. MC/R was associated with residing in a state in which RC is legal, being female, using MC for pain or mental health conditions, vaping MC concentrates, holding positive expectancies for combustible MC, and seeking out MC products with high THC concentrations. Preferring MC products with high cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations protected against MC/R.


More than half of MC users endorsed MC/R, which is considerably higher than rates of misuse observed for other prescription medications. Findings raise concerns about circumvention of RC laws in states where RC remains illegal and could be used to inform MC regulatory efforts (e.g., reducing THC content, increasing CBD content). Findings also suggest that prevention/intervention efforts to reduce MC/R are needed, especially among high-risk populations of MC users (e.g., women, pain patients, psychiatric patients).


Medical cannabis; Medical marijuana; Patients; Recreational cannabis; Recreational marijuana

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