Distress, Coping, and Drug Law Enforcement in a Series of Patients Using Medical Cannabis

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Patients using medical cannabis in the United States inhabit a conflicting medicolegal space. This study presents data from a dispensary-based survey of patients using medical cannabis in the state of Washington regarding cannabis-specific health behaviors, levels of psychological distress, stress regarding marijuana criminality, past experiences with drug law enforcement, and coping behaviors. Thirty-seven subjects were enrolled in this study, and all but three completed survey materials. The median index of psychological distress, as measured by the Behavioral Symptom Inventory, was nearly 2.5 times higher than that found in a general population sample but one third less than that found in an outpatient sample. The subjects reported a moderate amount of stress related to the criminality of marijuana, with 76% reporting previous exposure to 119 separate drug law enforcement tactics in total. The subjects reported a wide range of coping methods, and their responses to a modified standardized survey showed the confounding influence of legality in assessing substance-related disorders.

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