Cannabis remains among the most widely used, researched, and discussed drugs in the world. The science buttressing its use as a treatment for a variety of symptoms and medical conditions has evolved considerably since the 1960s; yet, the most common uses reported by patients are not recognized by the medical community. Despite this lack of accord, several countries have liberalized domestic policy in recent years to give eligible patients access to regulated suppliers and protection from legal repercussion. Alternatively, patients residing in countries without a medical exception continue to risk facing social stigmatization and other legal barriers created by prohibition. This study considers whether the profile of self-described medical users from two countries with very different policies is shaped by external forces, such as domestic policy, or unique features of the “cannabis career.” Data obtained from an online survey of self-described medical users residing primarily in Canada and the United Kingdom (n = 359) is used to better understand this drug-using population. The study describes the sample “profile” using information about respondents’ demographics, patterns of use, medical conditions and symptoms, healthcare involvement, reasons for use, and experience using cannabis. Cannabis career typologies are constructed with k-means cluster analysis and distinctions are drawn between Canadian and British respondents using descriptive and comparative statistical analyses. Respondents’ sociability and resourcefulness are investigated with a “sociability scale” and a descriptive account of their “cannabis network.” Finally, logistic regression is used to identify which factors are associated with elevated odds of encountering social, legal and supply-side barriers. Four models (“cannabis career,” “needs-based,” “resource-based,” and “risk-based”) are used to determine whether unique features of the user-profile can explain who encounters barriers beyond nationality/residency alone. Additionally, the study considers separately the subpopulation of users that grow their own as a means of overcoming the access barrier. With few exceptions, the profile of users is the same for Canadians and Britons; however, when it comes to the barriers, the notable distinctions are country-specific and largely stem from policy. The study describes the major similarities and differences between the two populations and considers their policy and research implications.
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Thesis advisor: Boyd, Neil
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