Nationally representative surveys on cannabis use lack product details relevant to public health


Many annual, nationally representative US surveys that assess cannabis use do not collect information on product characteristics despite varying health risks and benefits. Capitalizing on a rich dataset of primarily medical users, the purpose of this study was to describe the degree of potential misclassification in clinically relevant cannabis use measures when primary mode of use is recorded but not product type.


Analyses consider user-level data from the Releaf App™ database on product types, consumption modes, and potencies in a non-nationally representative sample of 26,322 cannabis administration sessions occurring in 2018, across 3,258 users. Proportions, means, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated and compared across products and modes.


Primary consumption modes were smoking (47.1%), vaping (36.5%), and eating/drinking (10.4%), with 22.7% of users reporting multiple modes of use. Moreover, mode of use did not signify a single product type: users reported vaping both flower (41.3%) and concentrates (68.7%). Of those who smoked cannabis, 8.1% reported smoking concentrates. Concentrates averaged 3.4 times higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) potency and 3.1 times higher cannabidiol (CBD) potency than flower.


Cannabis consumers employ multiple consumption modes, and product type cannot be inferred from mode of use. With THC potencies markedly higher in concentrates, these findings underscore the importance of including information on cannabis product types and mode of use in surveillance surveys. Clinicians and policymakers need these data to inform treatment decisions and assess cannabis policies’ implications for population health.


Cannabis; Marijuana; Surveillance survey.

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