Prevalence of Cannabis Use Disorder and Reasons for Use Among Adults in a US State Where Recreational Cannabis Use Is Legal

JAMA Netw Open. 2023 Aug 1;6(8):e2328934. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.28934.


Importance: Medical and nonmedical cannabis use and cannabis use disorders (CUD) have increased with increasing cannabis legalization. However, the prevalence of CUD among primary care patients who use cannabis for medical or nonmedical reasons is unknown for patients in states with legal recreational use.

Objective: To estimate the prevalence and severity of CUD among patients who report medical use only, nonmedical use only, and both reasons for cannabis use in a state with legal recreational use.

Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional survey study took place at an integrated health system in Washington State. Among 108 950 adult patients who completed routine cannabis screening from March 2019 to September 2019, 5000 were selected for a confidential cannabis survey using stratified random sampling for frequency of past-year cannabis use and race and ethnicity. Among 1688 respondents, 1463 reporting past 30-day cannabis use were included in the study.

Exposure: Patient survey-reported reason for cannabis use in the past 30 days: medical use only, nonmedical use only, and both reasons.

Main outcomes and measures: Patient responses to the Composite International Diagnostic Interview-Substance Abuse Module for CUD, corresponding to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition CUD severity (0-11 symptoms) were categorized as any CUD (≥2 symptoms) and moderate to severe CUD (≥4 symptoms). Adjusted analyses were weighted for survey stratification and nonresponse for primary care population estimates and compared prevalence of CUD across reasons for cannabis use.

Results: Of 1463 included primary care patients (weighted mean [SD] age, 47.4 [16.8] years; 748 [weighted proportion, 61.9%] female) who used cannabis, 42.4% (95% CI, 31.2%-54.3%) reported medical use only, 25.1% (95% CI, 17.8%-34.2%) nonmedical use only, and 32.5% (95% CI, 25.3%-40.8%) both reasons for use. The prevalence of CUD was 21.3% (95% CI, 15.4%-28.6%) and did not vary across groups. The prevalence of moderate to severe CUD was 6.5% (95% CI, 5.0%-8.6%) and differed across groups: 1.3% (95% CI, 0.0%-2.8%) for medical use, 7.2% (95% CI, 3.9%-10.4%) for nonmedical use, and 7.5% (95% CI, 5.7%-9.4%) for both reasons for use (P = .01).

Conclusions and relevance: In this cross-sectional study of primary care patients in a state with legal recreational cannabis use, CUD was common among patients who used cannabis. Moderate to severe CUD was more prevalent among patients who reported any nonmedical use. These results underscore the importance of assessing patient cannabis use and CUD symptoms in medical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse* / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Hallucinogens
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists