Barriers to access to medical cannabis for Canadians living with HIV/AIDS

AIDS Care. 2007 Apr;19(4):500-6. doi: 10.1080/09540120701207833.


North American studies suggest that as many as one-third of people living with HIV/AIDS self-medicate with cannabis for relief of physical and stress-related symptoms. Although cannabis remains a controlled substance in Canada, legal access has been granted to people with HIV/AIDS and other serious illness under the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) since 2001. Several years into the programme, however, few Canadians ( approximately 1400) have obtained MMAR approval, suggesting that substantial obstacles remain. This paper reports findings from a 2005 survey (n=197) and focus groups conducted to identify barriers to access to medical cannabis among people living with HIV/AIDS. Most (86%) respondents who reported using cannabis as medicine continue to rely on illegal sources for their supply. They cited lack of information, product quality concerns, and an onerous, confusing application process among other problems mentioned with the MMAR. The findings are discussed in terms of policy suggestions for facilitating access to a legal source of cannabis for medical users.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Canada
  • Cannabis*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / statistics & numerical data
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Pain / psychology
  • Phytotherapy* / psychology
  • Self Medication