A recent report suggests stigma may play a role in how women consume medical cannabis.
A recent report from the US highlights the differences in how men and women consume medical cannabis products.
Healthcare technology company, Veriheal, recently published its annual Medical Cannabis Preference Report.
The survey of registered medical cannabis patients in the US shines some light on which types of cannabis products are preferred by men and women, and what product offerings patients most hope to see available in dispensaries.
The company drew data from 125,000 patient signups registered in 2021 to the Veriheal platform, surveying cannabis use preferences, user experience, medical conditions and several other variables which factor into their cannabis use.
The data was segregated into respondent groups based on self-identified sex (male or female) as presented in electronic health records.
Women prefer edibles to flower
Its findings show that women are more likely than men to consume edibles over alternatives such as flower, which the authors suggest could be linked to a “prevailing stigma around women and substance use”.
According to the figures, men significantly prefer cannabis flower (80 per cent) to edibles (63 per cent), while women didn’t appear to have a significant preference.
However, 31 per cent of women would like to see more edibles on the market, and only 18 per cent would like to see more flower-based products.
Patients of both genders signalled a desire for feelings of relaxation and pain relief when using cannabis.
Men were slightly more likely to desire pain relief (69 per cent) rather than relaxation (67 per cent), while women were slightly more likely to desire feeling relaxed (72 per cent) to feeling relief from pain (69 per cent).
The survey also revealed that women use cannabis to treat nausea at significantly higher rates than men.
Does stigma play a part?
Those behind the report point to potential explanations, including better therapeutic benefit and stigma associated with cannabis use.
Data shows that women are more likely to replace their pharmaceuticals with cannabis products, and consuming edible cannabis may be more familiar to these individuals.
In addition, in the US where cannabis is legal in many states, edibles are labeled with precise cannabinoid content, serving size, and dosing instructions.
This could explain why those who use edibles report better pain relief and sleep with these products, than when smoking or vaping cannabis.
However, the predominant reason that women are consuming edibles is said to be due to their “discrete nature”.
Substance use in women is generally perceived as less frequent than in men, and stigma can be particularly prevalent towards women who have children and also use cannabis.
Veriheal’s report suggests that the desire to conceal cannabis may be a byproduct of this stigma, and that women who “wish to avoid negative associations” related to cannabis use are “more likely to seek out edibles as a more discrete means of obtaining the therapeutic effects of cannabis.”
The authors conclude: “The preference for cannabis edibles in women is evident, and the factors contributing to this preference are varied… women have indeed cited the ease and discretion of consumption as a reason for choosing edibles over smoking. Women have also been shown to prefer discretion while consuming cannabis due to societal gender roles about substance use.”
They added: “Societal stigmas which influence women in their cannabis consumption choices may become outdated as society begins to accept cannabis as medicine. An increased use of cannabis as medicine is likely to lead to more oral formulations as a parallel to or part of the pharmaceutical industry.”
Anthony Dutcher, Veriheal’s chief marketing officer, commented: “Veriheal seeks to give the patient community a voice, while also boosting research that helps cannabis companies make better, more tailored products and connect patients with the medicine they need.”
Although these insights come from the US, can we draw parallels with what is happening here in the UK?