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Trends in U.S. Medical Cannabis Registrations, Authorizing Clinicians, and Reasons for Use From 2020 to 2022.

BACKGROUND: As medical cannabis availability increases, up-to-date trends in medical cannabis licensure can inform clinical policy and care.

OBJECTIVE: To describe current trends in medical cannabis licensure in the United States.

DESIGN: Ecological study with repeated measures.

SETTING: Publicly available state registry data from 2020 to 2022.

PARTICIPANTS: People with medical cannabis licenses and clinicians authorizing cannabis licenses in the United States.

MEASUREMENTS: Total patient volume and prevalence per 10 000 persons in the total population, symptoms or conditions qualifying patients for licensure (that is, patient-reported qualifying conditions), and number of authorizing clinicians.

RESULTS: In 2022, of 39 jurisdictions allowing medical cannabis use, 34 reported patient numbers, 19 reported patient-reported qualifying conditions, and 29 reported authorizing clinician numbers. Enrolled patients increased 33.3% from 2020 (3 099 096) to 2022 (4 132 098), with a corresponding 23.0% increase in the population prevalence of patients (175.0 per 10 000 in 2020 to 215.2 per 10 000 in 2022). However, 13 of 15 jurisdictions with nonmedical adult-use laws had decreased enrollment from 2020 to 2022. The proportion of patient-reported qualifying conditions with substantial or conclusive evidence of therapeutic value decreased from 70.4% (2020) to 53.8% (2022). Chronic pain was the most common patient-reported qualifying condition in 2022 (48.4%), followed by anxiety (14.2%) and posttraumatic stress disorder (13.0%). In 2022, the United States had 29 500 authorizing clinicians (7.7 per 1000 patients), 53.5% of whom were physicians. The most common specialties reported were internal or family medicine (63.4%), physical medicine and rehabilitation (9.1%), and anesthesia or pain (7.9%).

LIMITATION: Missing data (for example, from California), descriptive analysis, lack of information on individual use patterns, and changing evidence base.

CONCLUSION: Enrollment in medical cannabis programs increased overall but generally decreased in jurisdictions with nonmedical adult-use laws. Use for conditions or symptoms without a strong evidence basis continues to increase. Given these trends, more research is needed to better understand the risks and benefits of medical cannabis.

PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.

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