Prevalence and Correlates of Medicinal Cannabis Use Among Adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2021 Jan;68(1):103-109. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.07.032. Epub 2020 Aug 20.


Purpose: Prior studies of medicinal cannabis use (MCU) have focused primarily on adults. This study examined the prevalence and correlates of self-reported MCU among adolescents.

Methods: Secondary school students (grades 9-12; N = 3,221) completed a cross-sectional survey in classrooms across Ontario, Canada, in 2016-2017. Participants reported on cannabis use behavior, cannabis dependence, other drugs use, and general health and sleep. Participants reporting cannabis use in the past year were grouped based on whether they reported MCU or not (i.e., recreational cannabis use only [RCU-only]).

Results: An estimated 6.89% (95% confidence interval 5.48%-8.63%) of students reported MCU, representing one quarter of the students reporting current cannabis use. Relative to the RCU-only group, the MCU group reported using cannabis more frequently, were more likely to report vaping and eating cannabis, had greater risk for cannabis dependence, perceived cannabis as less harmful, were more likely to report tobacco use, recreational use of other drugs, and medicinal use of sedatives or tranquilizers, and were less likely to report good health and sleeping for seven or more hours per night. Frequency of cannabis use accounted for differences between MCU and RCU-only groups in cannabis dependence risk, recreational use of other drugs, and perceiving cannabis as harmful, but it did not account for the other differences.

Conclusions: A sizable portion of secondary school students report MCU, which appears to be associated with more frequent cannabis use and certain substance use and health-related correlates. Research is needed to further characterize motives for self-reported MCU among adolescents.

Keywords: Cannabis; Marijuana; Medical; Motives; Students; THC; Therapeutic; Youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Cannabis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking*
  • Medical Marijuana*
  • Prevalence


  • Medical Marijuana