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Patients experiences of therapeutic cannabis consumption in New Zealand

Fiona Hutton (Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Geoff Noller (Bioethics Department, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
Alice McSherry (School of Environment, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Drugs, Habits and Social Policy

ISSN: 2752-6739

Article publication date: 28 April 2023

Issue publication date: 25 May 2023




This study aims to explore people’s experiences of taking cannabis therapeutically and to gather some real-world evidence (RWE) about the products they were using, their efficacy and what kinds of positive or negative effect/s patients experienced. The focus of this discussion is the efficacy of cannabis for the participants in this study.


This was an exploratory study that used a mixed methods approach: a survey and semi-structured interviews. The data presented here focus on thematic analysis of five of the open-ended survey questions. Results from a purposive survey sample are also briefly reported. Interview data are not reported on here.


Across the sample (n = 213), 95.6% of participants reported that taking cannabis helped them with a number of conditions. The most common three themes across the thematic analysis were that cannabis helped with pain relief, sleep and anxiety. Negative effects, some of which related to having to source cannabis from the illicit market, were relatively minor and experienced by 28% (n = 58) of participants. An important finding was that 49% (n = 76) of those who said their use of prescribed medicines had decreased (n = 155), significantly decreased and in some cases stopped their use of prescribed medications.


This study reports on a sample of participants with clinically diagnosed conditions and adds to the RWE base about the efficacy of using cannabis for therapeutic purposes in the New Zealand context.



This research would not have been possible without the support of our steering group so a huge and heartfelt thank you all. Thanks to Pearl Schomburg for her support of this project, and to her and the Auckland Patients group for their tireless advocacy around access to therapeutic cannabis. Thanks also to Dr Graham Gulbransen for supporting our research and adding the link to our survey on his Clinic's website. Finally thank you to all who completed our survey and shared your experiences with us.


Hutton, F., Noller, G. and McSherry, A. (2023), "Patients experiences of therapeutic cannabis consumption in New Zealand", Drugs, Habits and Social Policy, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 117-132.



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