State policies allowing for medical cannabis in opioid use disorder (OUD) are associated with increased marketing by dispensaries for this indication, according to a cross-sectional study published in JAMA Open Network.

Investigators aimed to determine whether state-level policies designating OUD as an indication for medical cannabis are associated with an increased frequency of cannabis dispensaries suggesting cannabis as treatment for OUD.

Online advertisements were reviewed for 167 medical dispensaries located in 7 states, including 44 (26.3%) in states where OUD was considered a qualifying condition for medical cannabis use (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania). The remaining 123 dispensaries were located in adjacent states in which OUD was not considered an indication for medical cannabis (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio).

Claims related to OUD in online advertisements were 26% more common in states with OUD policies than in those without (95% CI, 13-39%; P <.001). In states with OUD policies, 39% more brands claimed cannabis could be used to treat OUD than in states without policies (95% CI, 23-55%; P <.001).


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Overall, few dispensary brands (<20%) recommended replacing medication for OUD with cannabis, though this was also higher in the states with OUD policies than in those without (difference, 14%; 95% CI, 2-26%; P =.001). Cannabis was advertised as an adjuvant to OUD treatment in 28% more brands in states with policies than in those without (95% CI, 14-42%; P <.001).

In states with OUD policies, 25% more brands suggested cannabis could substitute for opioids compared with brands in states without policies (95% CI, 9-41%; P =.002).

Brands that operated in both states with and without policies were infrequent (n=29), but differences in outcomes were not observed for these brands.

The researchers acknowledged that the use of online promotional material to evaluate claims does not account for claims regarding cannabis use in OUD that may be made within the physical environment of the dispensary.

“State-level policies designating OUD as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis were associated with more dispensaries claiming cannabis can treat OUD,” the study authors concluded. “Understanding the degree to which marketing by cannabis dispensaries influences patient decision-making related to OUD treatment is…important, particularly in the context of different state-level cannabis policies.”

Reference

Shover CL, Vest NA, Chen D, et al. Association of state policies allowing medical cannabis for opioid use disorder with dispensary marketing for this indication. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(7):e2010001. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.10001