This study examines the process involved in becoming a medicinal marijuana patient, drawing upon Becker’s (1953) analysis of recreational marijuana users as a guide. Semi-structured open ended qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposively chosen sample (n=22) of medical marijuana patients currently using cannabis to alleviate symptom(s) of an underlying medical condition(s). Nine participants (50%) describe a seamless transition without any period of desistance, seven participants (39%) indicate a period of desistance between recreational use and medicinal use, and two participants (11%) indicated that they had a period of cessation or fragmented use after the onset of their symptoms or after acknowledging a medicinal benefit and then resumed medicinal use at a later point. Despite the different pathways individuals may take to become medical cannabis patients (i.e. life course persistent versus those with a period of cessation between their phases) it is evident that one’s recreational experience alone does not provide sufficient knowledge and understanding to effectively treat one’s medical symptoms. All participants engaged in some form of learning post transition. Participants received limited information from their health care providers regarding the therapeutic use of cannabis. They often had to seek out information on their own, either through social avenues such as like minded peers or dispensary staff, but also through their own independent research and experimentation. Overall, treating one’s symptoms with cannabis is a complex undertaking and is subject to change as individual needs, preferences, and access to product changes. Patients who access cannabis through different means- the Federal program, dispensaries, and or compassion clubs- would benefit greatly from more knowledgeable health care providers.
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Thesis advisor: Boyd, Neil
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