Medical cannabis use in the Australian community following introduction of legal access: the 2018-2019 Online Cross-Sectional Cannabis as Medicine Survey (CAMS-18)

Harm Reduct J. 2020 Jun 8;17(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s12954-020-00377-0.


Background: In 2016, the Australian federal government passed legislation enabling a range of cannabis-based products to be prescribed to patients by registered healthcare professionals. An online survey conducted immediately prior to these legislative changes found that the vast majority of respondents at the time were illicitly sourcing cannabis plant matter, smoking was the preferred route of administration and mental health, chronic pain, and sleep conditions were the most frequently cited reasons for medical cannabis use. This manuscript reports the results of a follow-up survey conducted in 2018-2019, the Cannabis As Medicine Survey (CAMS-18). The goal of this second questionnaire was to examine patterns of use and consumer perspectives regarding medical cannabis use in Australia, 2 years after the introduction of legal access pathways.

Methods: Anonymous online cross-sectional survey with convenience sample, recruited mainly through online media between September 2018 and March 2019. Participants were adults (18 years or over) residing in Australia who reported using a cannabis product for self-identified therapeutic reasons during the preceding 12 months. The survey measured consumer characteristics, indications and patterns of medical cannabis use, routes and frequency of administration, perceived benefits and harms, experiences and preferred models of access to medical cannabis.

Results: Data were available for 1388 respondents. The main categories of condition being treated with medical cannabis were pain (36.4%), mental health (32.8%), sleep (9.2%), neurological (5.2%) and cancer (3.8%). Respondents reported using medical cannabis on 15.8 (11.2) days in the past 28, by inhaled (71.4%) or oral (26.5%) routes and spending AUD$82.27 ($101.27) per week. There were high levels of self-reported effectiveness, but also high rates of side effects. There was uncertainty regarding the composition of illicit cannabinoid products and concerns regarding their possible contamination. Few respondents (2.7%) had accessed legally prescribed medical cannabis, with the main perceived barriers being cost, disinterest from the medical profession and stigma regarding cannabis use.

Conclusions: Chronic pain, mental health and sleep remain the main clinical conditions for which consumers report using medical cannabis. Despite 2 years of legal availability, most consumers in Australia reported accessing illicit cannabis products, with uncertainty regarding the quality or composition of cannabis products.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Health policy; Medical cannabis; Medical marijuana.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data*


  • Medical Marijuana