Researchers predict that 600,000 Australians use marijuana for medical reasons. However, the previous Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS18) revealed that although medicinal marijuana was legalized in 2016, the vast majority of people who use it as a drug are still illegally acquiring it.
Researchers from the University of Sydney are launching the latest edition of the Cannabis as Medicine survey “CAMS20” this week.
The online study, conducted every two years, surveyed Australians who had used medicinal marijuana in the past 12 months and provided information on patterns of use, symptoms and conditions of treatment, methods of use, sources, and effects on health and driving.
Professor Iain McGregor, academic director of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre said: “The CAMS20 survey will allow us an important understanding of how medicinal cannabis use is evolving in the community as it becomes more mainstream. This is a particularly exciting and dynamic time in patient access to products and it is important for Australians to be able to confidentially share their experiences around medicinal cannabis, both legal and illegal.”
Helen, from Queensland, said she had been suffering from chronic pain from spinal fractures, fibromyalgia, neuralgia and other diseases for decades. Due to serious side effects, she was unable to take drugs such as opiates, Tramadol and Lyrica.
“It seemed there was nothing I could do to relieve the persistent pain,” Helen said. “However, since mid-2019 when legally prescribed medicinal cannabis became available, my life has been greatly changed. My pain levels are significantly decreased, my sleep has improved and I’m more active. The CAMS20 survey is important because it will allow more Australians to share their experience with medicinal cannabis.”
Legal access to medicinal marijuana is improving, and the monthly approval of the therapeutic items administration under the special access scheme (the main legal access route) has steadily increased. However, if most people still get marijuana from illegal sources, the survey may provide a reason.
Although legislative changes have resulted in significant improvements in access to medicinal marijuana, further changes to the legislative plan may be required. For example, a recent Senate survey highlighted education, medical costs and current driving laws as major barriers to access to information.