Growing medicine: Small-scale cannabis cultivation for medical purposes in six different countries
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Background: The production and consumption of cannabis for the treatment of medical conditions is of increasing importance internationally; however, research on different aspects of the phenomenon is still scarce. In this article, we report findings from a cross-cultural study of small-scale cannabis cultivation for medical purposes. This kind of comparative study has not been done previously. Methods: The data were gathered with a help of web surveys conducted by the Global Cannabis Cultivation Research Consortium (GCCRC) in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany and the UK (N = 5313). In the analysis we compare reports of medical motives, for what conditions cannabis is used, whether users have diagnoses for these conditions and whether the use of cannabis been recommended as a treatment of those conditions by a medical doctor. Descriptive statistics are used to show the main commonalities and noteworthy disparities across different countries. Results: Findings from countries were quite similar, even though several national differences in details were found. Growing cannabis for medical purposes was widespread. The majority of medical growers reported cultivating cannabis for serious conditions. Most of them did have a formal diagnosis. One fifth had got a recommendation from their doctor, but in most cases cannabis use was self-medication which was not discussed with their doctors. Conclusion: There is a wider demand for licit access for medical cannabis than currently available in these countries. Ideologically, medical growers can be seen distancing themselves from both the legal and illicit drug markets. From a harm reduction perspective, it is worrying that, in the context of present health and control policies in these countries, many medical growers are using cannabis to treat serious medical conditions without proper medical advice and doctor's guidance.
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