Student-Led Epidemiological Research on Medical Cannabis Legalization in Public Health

By  | December 23, 2023 | Industry News, Laws & Regulation

As medical cannabis gains legal ground and popularity, its impact on public health is a topic worth exploring. And it is vital to stay informed on current research findings and their implications–whether you are a regular cannabis consumer or simply curious.

In this blog post, we dive into the fascinating realm of epidemiological research. In the process, we will unravel how medical cannabis legalization is reshaping public health. We’ll sift through studies on everything from chronic pain relief to mental health. Join us as we navigate this evolving landscape.

Introduction to medical cannabis and its legalization in public health

Medical cannabis is buzzing in the health world for its ability to treat diverse ailments. Despite being legal in many states, it remains illegal on a federal level. So, what are the implications of the conflicting state and federal cannabis laws on public health?

As more people seek alternative treatments for chronic pain and anxiety, the idea of medical cannabis continues to gain momentum. Policymakers, health professionals, and patients alike are all interested in the benefits and risks associated with legal marijuana.

Brief history of medical cannabis

For centuries, medical cannabis has been a trusted form of medication. Ancient Chinese and Greek physicians used it to help their patients with various ailments. Even sacred Hindu texts like the Atharvaveda consider marijuana as a form of medication.

Today, medical cannabis is still a controversial topic around the world. But there is no denying that it has played a significant role in medicine throughout history.

Current legal status in the United States

As of 2023, medical cannabis is legal in 38 states, three U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. At the same time, recreational cannabis use is legal in 24 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. As more states consider and enact legislation to legalize cannabis, these figures will continue to evolve.

Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level in the U.S., yet its legal status varies from state to state. As a result, this patchwork of laws creates confusion and inconsistency in the enforcement of drug policies. And there is no denying that Americans’ attitudes about marijuana legalization are shifting. Consequently, recent political movements have called for the rescheduling of cannabis and the legalization of federal marijuana.

Overview of epidemiological research methods used in studying medical cannabis

Epidemiological research, which investigates health-related patterns and causes in populations, is necessary for understanding medical cannabis. 

This research uses various methods:

  • Population-based studies
  • Case-control studies
  • Observational and quasi-experimental studies
  • Systematic reviews

These approaches have illuminated cannabis’s medicinal properties and spurred more research into its therapeutic applications. As methods evolve, our grasp of cannabis’s health benefits will grow.

Observational studies

Observational studies are a research method that involves observing and analyzing individuals or groups in their natural environment. These studies provide insights into real-life situations and behaviors that cannot be replicated in a lab.

Unlike experimental studies, observational studies collect data as it naturally occurs. This method benefits fields like sociology, psychology, and healthcare, helping researchers identify risk factors and understand complex human interactions.

Still, results from observational studies undergo thorough analysis and cautious interpretation because the environment and variables are uncontrollable.

Surveys and questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are valuable tools for gathering information from individuals or a specific audience. They provide invaluable insights for product feedback, service evaluation, academic research, and more.

These instruments come in various formats, including online surveys, paper questionnaires, and telephone interviews. Researchers can use closed-ended questions with predetermined answer choices or open-ended questions for more elaboration.

The collected data is then analyzed to make informed decisions and drive improvements. Designing a well-crafted survey requires careful planning, consideration of goals and target audience, and avoiding bias or leading questions.

Impact of medical cannabis legalization on public health outcomes

Recent studies show that legalizing medical cannabis has positively impacted public health outcomes. For instance, in states where marijuana is legal, opioid overdose rates have dropped. So, there is a possibility that medicinal cannabis can be an effective alternative for pain management.

Furthermore, early research indicates that marijuana may improve outcomes for several debilitating conditions. Although further research is essential, it appears that legalizing medical cannabis could benefit many patients.

Reduction in opioid use and overdose deaths

The opioid crisis, marked by rising use and overdose deaths, is showing signs of improvement. In 2018, the U.S. experienced a notable 4.1% drop in drug overdose deaths, the first significant decline in decades, as reported by the CDC

Additionally, a JAMA study revealed that states with medical cannabis laws saw a 6.1% decrease in opioid prescriptions for Medicaid enrollees, suggesting cannabis as a potential aid in this crisis. 

These positive changes are due to concerted efforts in education, prescription monitoring, and expanded treatment options. Though challenges remain, these strategies are proving effective in tackling the opioid epidemic.

Management of chronic pain

Chronic pain can be a considerable obstacle to living an active and fulfilling life. This type of pain persists, often for weeks, and can limit mobility and physical function. 

Treating chronic pain requires a comprehensive approach that addresses all aspects of pain. And it can include medication, physical therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

With a well-rounded plan, individuals can successfully manage chronic pain and lead healthier and happier lives.

Medical cannabis for chronic pain management

Research suggests medical cannabis could be a game-changer for pain management. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, offering a natural, potentially lower-risk alternative to traditional pain medications.

Significant findings include:

  • A European Journal of Internal Medicine study revealed that over 90% of 2,736 elderly patients reported improved conditions and pain reduction after six months of medical cannabis treatment.
  • Another study confirmed that patients using cannabis felt a notable decrease in pain levels.
  • The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s comprehensive review found strong evidence of cannabis’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain in adults.

With growing evidence of its efficacy, medical cannabis presents a promising option in chronic pain management strategies. Still, marijuana for pain requires professional guidance to navigate any risks and side effects.

Public perceptions and attitudes towards medical cannabis legalization

The world is changing, and so are people’s views on marijuana legalization. Once considered a taboo subject, the idea of allowing medical cannabis is now gaining headway in different parts of the world. Thanks to research, many people now understand that cannabis has therapeutic benefits.

However, there is still some healthy debate around the safety and efficiency of cannabis. With the many legal changes happening around medical cannabis, it is fascinating to see how people’s opinions and perceptions will continue to evolve.

Review of survey results and polls on public opinion

Surveys and polls are powerful tools for understanding public opinions. While they have limitations, they’re invaluable for gauging societal trends and making informed decisions.

Recently, a series of surveys have highlighted a significant shift in public opinion towards medical cannabis legalization:

 These figures reflect a growing openness to medical cannabis as an alternative treatment and recognize its potential economic benefits.

Potential risks associated with medical cannabis legalization

As more states explore the possibility of medical marijuana legalization, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks associated with this industry. 

A significant concern is the lack of regulation and standardization, which could result in inconsistent potency and dosages across different products. This can be especially risky for patients with complex health conditions or lower drug tolerances. Additionally, the long-term effects of medical marijuana are still not fully understood. 

So, while research shows promising results, it’s necessary to evaluate potential risks before making any widespread marijuana legalization changes.

Research findings on the long-term effects of marijuana use

Research into the long-term effects of marijuana use reveals a mix of positive and negative outcomes, with ongoing studies shedding more light on this topic.

Key findings include:

  • A JAMA Psychiatry study reported that starting marijuana use in adolescence led to an average 8-point IQ loss by mid-adulthood. Notably, quitting marijuana didn’t fully restore these cognitive abilities.
  • Contrarily, a Drug and Alcohol Dependence study found no link between chronic teenage marijuana use and later health issues like depression, psychosis, or asthma.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine study linked heavy marijuana use in young adults to a higher risk of respiratory symptoms or chronic bronchitis.

These results highlight the complex nature of marijuana’s long-term effects, underscoring the need for more research.

Suggestions for future research

Epidemiological research on medical cannabis legalization is a vital area for future exploration, particularly in public health. 

This topic, ripe for research paper writing, offers a unique opportunity to analyze the intersection of health policy and societal impacts. By focusing on how the legalization of medical cannabis influences public health outcomes, researchers can uncover valuable insights into its effects on community health, healthcare practices, and societal attitudes. 

Such research papers could provide crucial data to guide healthcare policies and better understand the broader implications of medical cannabis in society. As this field continues to evolve, thorough and focused epidemiological research will be instrumental in shaping informed health policies and practices.


In the ongoing conversations around marijuana legalization, it’s crucial to remember the importance of evidence-based decision-making. While medical cannabis has shown potential in treating various conditions, we must thoroughly evaluate the risks and benefits before making any major policy decisions. 

Using the most reliable scientific research available ensures that policymakers can make informed choices that prioritize the health and well-being of their constituents. By embracing evidence-based decision-making, we can make sound decisions and implement responsible public health policies regarding the legalization of medical cannabis.

Get Your Medical Marijuana Card

Same-day appointments available for online medical marijuana evaluation.
Get your certification now!