Given the choice between addictive, deadly opioids and cannabis to treat chronic pain and mental health issues, many patients are choosing cannabis, according to a new study from researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Victoria. 
In a press release, Associate Professor Zach Walsh of UBC, co-author of the study, said:
“This study is one of the first to track medical cannabis use under the new system of licensed producers, meaning that all participants had physician authorization to access cannabis in addition to their prescription medicines.” 
Over 250 people responded to the study’s online survey about cannabis use. All had been prescribed medical cannabis to treat chronic pain, mental health, and/or gastrointestinal issues; and all had registered to buy it from Tilray, a federally licensed producer.
Their answers revealed that 63% of patients reported using cannabis instead of their prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, including opioids, sedatives, and antidepressants. Why? The participants’ answers indicated that they felt cannabis was safer than opioids, with reduced side effects and better symptom management.
“Further research into how well cannabis works compared to the accepted front-line treatments is warranted. Additionally, long-term research into the potential impact of the cannabis substitution on the quality of patient’s lives is ongoing.” 
Canada became one of the first countries to develop a medical marijuana program in 2001. As of August 2016, more than 65,000 patients received their medication from over 30 federally authorized licensed providers. 
The study is published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, and was funded by Tilray.
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.