Attitudes and Beliefs About Medical Usefulness and Legalization of Marijuana among Cancer Patients in a Legalized and a Nonlegalized State

Kimberson Tanco, Donato Dumlao, Rebecca Kreis, Kristy Nguyen, Seyedeh Dibaj, Diane Liu, Vidyasagargoud Marupakula, Ayesha Shaikh, Walter Baile, Eduardo Bruera
Journal of Palliative Medicine 2019 August 6
Background: There is a growing preference for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite limited evidence regarding its benefits and potential safety risks. Legalization status may play a role in the attitudes and preferences toward medical marijuana (MM). Objectives: The attitudes and beliefs of cancer patients in a legalized (Arizona) versus nonlegalized state (Texas) regarding medical and recreational legalization and medical usefulness of marijuana were compared. Settings/Subjects: Two hundred adult cancer patients were enrolled from outpatient Palliative Care centers at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, AZ ( n  = 100) and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX ( n  = 100). Design and Measurements: Adult cancer patients seen by the Palliative Care teams in the outpatient centers were evaluated. Various physical and psychosocial assessments were conducted, including a survey of attitudes and beliefs toward marijuana. Results: The majority of individuals support legalization of marijuana for medical use (Arizona 92% [85-97%] vs. Texas 90% [82-95%]; p  = 0.81) and belief in its medical usefulness (Arizona 97% [92-99%] vs. Texas 93% [86-97%]; p  = 0.33) in both states. Overall, 181 (91%) patients supported legalization for medical purposes whereas 80 (40%) supported it for recreational purposes ( p  < 0.0001). Patients preferred marijuana over current standard treatments for anxiety (60% [51-68%]; p  = 0.003). Patients found to favor legalizing MM were younger ( p  = 0.027), had worse fatigue ( p  = 0.015), appetite ( p  = 0.004), anxiety ( p  = 0.017), and were Cut Down, Annoyed, Guilty, and Eye Opener-Adapted to Include Drugs (CAGE-AID) positive for alcohol/drugs ( p  < 0.0001). Conclusion: Cancer patients from both legalized and nonlegalized states supported legalization of marijuana for medical purposes and believed in its medical use. The support for legalization for medical use was significantly higher than for recreational use in both states.

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