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Medical Marijuana in California

Why Do Californians Use Medical Marijuana?

California voters approved medical marijuana 20 years ago, and the system they created has become a staple of the state’s healthcare community. Indeed, medicinal cannabis has proved so popular over the years that voters will likely legalize the drug for recreation in the November election.

But why, exactly, do Californians use the stuff? What conditions are they treating, and how does marijuana help them?

A new graph, published by the digital medical platform HelloMD, demonstrates why patients across the state use medical marijuana. It gives insight into the near-countless conditions that respond to cannabis, from anxiety to epilepsy, and shows how medical use of the drug has expanded over the years.

HelloMD surveyed more than 1,400 California patients who use medical marijuana. The study found 66 percent use it as first-line treatment for their health disorders.

Marijuana provides medicinal benefit for a long list of conditions

dispensary windowAlthough MMJ is better known as a treatment for pain, glaucoma, and epilepsy, its most common use is for anxiety. There may be a couple of reasons for this: Marijuana is a good medicine for anxiety, true, but the symptoms are vague and easy to fake, so many illegitimate patients frequently use this diagnosis to get it.

The second most common use was for pain, followed by stress, back problems, insomnia, and depression. But those are just a few disorders on a long list of conditions alleviated by marijuana. Many of them are chronic, suggesting pot may be especially good at treating diseases that persist for long periods of time.

“There is overwhelming evidence that marijuana helps to alleviate a range of conditions that affect millions of Americans,” said HelloMD CEO and co-founder Mark Hadfield. “If you take into account the relatively benign nature of marijuana — with zero deaths from overdose — and contrast that with this overwhelming benefit, it is really quite an eye-opener.”

Marijuana effectively reduces patients’ symptoms

The vast majority of those polled, 84 percent, said marijuana is effective at reducing their symptoms. Beyond specific health conditions, 76 percent of patients use the drug to relax, 65 percent to sleep, 47 percent as a mood booster, and 18 percent as a replacement for alcohol.

The last finding is very good news. Alcohol is the world’s most dangerous drug, killing 88,000 people each year in the United States alone. If marijuana works as a replacement for alcoholics – as many people report – it could substantially cut down on those fatalities.

In fact, that’s already happening. Recent studies have found cannabis could effectively reduce highway collisions by moving heavy drinkers from alcohol to cannabis, which is far less hazardous.

Cannabis is safer than alcohol

dispensary jarsThe report also explored the different ways in which different people use marijuana. Men and women use at roughly the same rate, the survey found, but men prefer vaporizing or smoking the drug while women increasingly prefer to use tinctures and topicals.

Women also tend to prefer delivery services to traditional dispensaries, possibly an indication that seedy pot shops turn women off. Female patients are also more likely than men to recommend the drug to family and friends.

Hadfield of HelloMD says the study should give lawmakers a reason to support full legalization of marijuana. Californians are likely to vote on the issue in November.

“Since cannabis is shown to be benign, beneficial and so broadly applicable, what reason is there for it to remain illegal?” he said. “We would hope that our study would help to inform regulators and legislators as they focus on this issue.”

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on and

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