Assessing Health-Related Outcomes of Medical Cannabis Use among Older Persons: Findings from Colorado and Illinois

Clin Gerontol. 2021 Jan-Feb;44(1):66-79. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2020.1797971. Epub 2020 Aug 26.


Objectives: To assess health-related outcomes associated with medical cannabis use among older patients in Colorado and Illinois enrolled in their home state's medical cannabis program.

Methods: Cross-sectional data from anonymous surveys were collected from 139 persons over the age of 60 using medical cannabis in the past year. We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to confirm the hypothesized four-factor structure that includes health-related quality of life (HRQL), health-care utilization (HCU), symptom effects, and adverse events. We then examined associations between cannabis use and self-reported outcome changes using linear regression.

Results: The four-factor model was the best fitting structure (X2(df) = 81.63 (67), p> X2 = 0.108) relative to reduced structures. We also found that using cannabis 1-4 times per week is associated with 3.30 additional points on the HRQL scale (p < .001), 2.72 additional points on the HCU scale (p < .01), and 1.13 points on pain (p < .001). The frequency of use reported at 5-7 times per week is associated with 4.71 additional HRQL score points (p < .001). No significant associations were observed between the frequency of use and adverse events.

Conclusions: We observed how cannabis use outcomes fall into four independent factors, and those using more frequently reported higher values on HRQL, HCU, and pain measures. However, we are cautious about the generalizability of our findings.

Clinical implications: Clinicians should consider how older patients using medical cannabis can experience positive and negative outcomes simultaneously or separately and assess these outcomes directly along with considering patient self-reports.

Keywords: Medical cannabis; older persons; proximal/distal; self-reported outcomes; structural equation models (SEM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana* / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Report


  • Medical Marijuana