Perceptions of cannabis as a stigmatized medicine: a qualitative descriptive study

Bottorff, Joan L., Bissell, Laura J. L., Balneaves, Lynda G ., Oliffe, John L., Capler, N. Rielle and Buxton, Jane (2013) Perceptions of cannabis as a stigmatized medicine: a qualitative descriptive study. Harm Reduction Journal, 10 1-10. doi:

Author Bottorff, Joan L.
Bissell, Laura J. L.
Balneaves, Lynda G .
Oliffe, John L.
Capler, N. Rielle
Buxton, Jane
Title Perceptions of cannabis as a stigmatized medicine: a qualitative descriptive study
Journal name Harm Reduction Journal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1477-7517
Publication date 2013-02
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Start page 1
End page 10
Total pages 10
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher BioMed Central
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: Despite its increasing prevalence and acceptance among the general public, cannabis use continues to be viewed as an aberrant activity in many contexts. However, little is known about how stigma associated with cannabis use affects individuals who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP) and what strategies these individuals employ to manage associated stigma. The aim of this Canadian study was to describe users’ perceptions of and responses to the stigma attached to using CTP.

Methods: Twenty-three individuals who were using CTP for a range of health problems took part in semi-structured interviews. Transcribed data were analyzed using an inductive approach and comparative strategies to explore participants’ perceptions of CTP and identify themes.

Results: Participant experiences of stigma were related to negative views of cannabis as a recreational drug, the current criminal sanctions associated with cannabis use, and using cannabis in the context of stigmatizing vulnerability (related to existing illness and disability). Strategies for managing the resulting stigma of using CTP included: keeping CTP ‘undercover’; educating those who did not approve of or understand CTP use; and using cannabis responsibly.

Conclusions: Understanding how individuals perceive and respond to stigma can inform the development of strategies aimed at reducing stigma associated with the use of CTP and thereby address barriers faced by those using this medicine. 
Keyword Cannabis
Medical marijuana
Legal consequences
Social consequences
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 8 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 22 Aug 2014, 09:30:32 EST by Vicki Percival on behalf of School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work