Multiple Sclerosis Patients Favor Marijuana Legalization

Man smoking marijuana
Man smoking marijuana
People with MS that currently use marijuana are likely to report higher levels of disability and more recent relapse.

WASHINGTON — Patients with multiple sclerosis, especially those with higher disability levels and a more recent relapse, are likely to support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, study findings indicate. Sixteen percent of respondents currently use marijuana to manage their multiple sclerosis (MS).

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia now at least allow marijuana use for medical purposes. Stacey S. Cofield, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues presented data from 5,665 respondents from the North American Research Committee on Multiple Sclerosis (NARCOMS) at the American Academy of Neurology 2015 Annual Meeting that depicted current marijuana use among people with MS.

The survey captured demographics and clinical characteristics, including disability (assessed by Patient Determined Disease Steps [PDDS], Performance Scales, and NARCOMS Tremor and Depression scales), and attitudes and behaviors regarding marijuana use. The majority of respondents had used marijuana prior to MS diagnosis and had considered using if for their MS.

Over 78% of respondents were female, and MS was relapsing from onset in 90.2%. Median PPDS scores for current and not current users was 4 (early cane) and 3 (gait disability) respectively; median spasticity scores for current and not current users was 3 (moderate) and 1 (minimal) respectively; and median tremor scores for current and not current users were 2 (mild) and 1 (minimal) respectively.

Although 84% were not currently using marijuana, nearly 50% live in locations where marijuana is legalized in some form. Sixteen percent of respondents said they currently use marijuana for their MS, with a median of 20 days of use per month. An overwhelming 91.5% believe it should be legal in some form, with current or past tobacco smokers and those who have used marijuana more recently favoring legalization.

Among delivery methods, 47% prefer oral dosing via a pill, 28% prefer topical, and 22% prefer oral dosing as an oil or smoking. Current users had higher median disability, tremor, and spasticity compared to those not currently using marijuana.


  1. Cofield SS et al. Abstract P1.140. Marijuana usage and disability in MS in the NARCOMS registry. Presented at: American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting 2015; April 18-25, 2015; Washington, D.C.