More than one-third of adults with sickle cell disease (SCD) report using cannabis-based products. Many states list SCD or pain as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, but there are few data to guide practitioners whether or whom should be certified. We postulated that certifying SCD patients may lead to a reduction in opioid use and/or health care utilization. Furthermore, we sought to identify clinical characteristics of patients who would request this intervention. Retrospective data obtained over the study period included rates of health care and opioid utilization for 6 months before certification and after certification. Patients who were certified but failed to obtain medical marijuana were compared with those who obtained it. Patients who were certified were invited to participate in a survey regarding their reasons for and thoughts on certification. Patients who were certified for medical marijuana were compared with 25 random patients who did not request certification. Fifty adults with SCD were certified for medical marijuana and 29 obtained it. Patients who obtained medical marijuana experienced a decrease in admission rates compared with those who did not and increased use of edible cannabis products. Neither group had changes in opioid use. Patients who were certified for medical marijuana had higher rates of baseline opioid use and illicit cannabis use compared with those who did not request certification. Most patients with SCD who requested medical marijuana were already using cannabis illicitly. Obtaining medical marijuana decreased inpatient hospitalizations.
© 2020 by The American Society of Hematology.