A wide-reaching survey released Wednesday from one of the leading medical cannabis providers in the United States found that a record number of Americans turned to the plant to cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report, conducted by D.C.-based cannabis telemedicine provider Veriheal, claimed that over 55 percent of 125,000 new patients that registered with the site from January 2020 to March 2021 sought medical access to the plant so they would feel happier. Another 29 percent of respondents cited relief as their main reason for wanting cannabis and nearly 10 percent said they wanted to feel relaxed.
Those represented users’ three most-desired effects, a clear sign that people were desperate to ease stress during difficult times, a participating researcher said.
“During normal times, you see a lot of people using the plant to enhance creativity or to feel energized and excited,” said Maha Haq, a pharmacology scholar from the University of Maryland and CEO of cannabis research firm CREA. “But most new patients are seeking comfort for their mental health.”
Leading analysts estimate global cannabis sales jumped between 35 and 45 percent in 2020 to about $20 billion. Projections for fiscal year 2021, which covers July 2020 through June 2021, has sales reaching as much as $24 billion.
Millennials were the most likely group to get a medical card in 2020 followed by Generations X and Z, the report said, and women accounted for about 40 percent of respondents. Veriheal’s data suggests most card applicants suffered from at least one depressive episode or panic attack during the pandemic.
Pennsylvania had the highest number of new patients of all states, which researchers attributed to it being a medical-only state. New York City had the highest demand among individual cities. Not coincidentally, the Big Apple also experienced the highest number of COVID-19 cases among U.S. cities last year.
The company said it presented its findings to the American Chemical Society, a congressionally chartered non-profit leading research in the global chemical enterprise, in hopes of encouraging federal marijuana reform.
“This is an incredibly important discovery that helps medical professionals better understand evolving consumer relationships with cannabis,” Haq said. “From there, we can improve the quality of their treatment and related mental healthcare programs.”