Weeding Out the Stigma: Older Veterans in Illinois Share Their Experiences Using Medical Cannabis

Kelly Lynn Clary, Hyojung Kang, Laura Quintero Silva, Julie Bobitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many U.S. Veterans are using cannabis for medical purposes. Modern research findings continue to point to medical cannabis as a potentially effective alternative to prescription medications for treating a range of medical conditions. While research exists on the use levels of cannabis, limited research can be found on the perceived stigma of using cannabis, especially among older Veterans. We surveyed 121 older U.S. Veterans who were enrolled in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Patient Program during Fall 2020. We then used maximum variation sampling to select a subset of 32 Veterans to partake in a phone interview. Two researchers conducted and qualitatively coded 30-minute audiotaped semi-structured interviews. Interview topics included (1) the use of cannabis, opioids, and benzodiazepines; (2) interactions with medical providers; (3) stigma regarding cannabis use; and (4) educational materials. We share findings from stigma. We identified three themes: (1) stereotypes regarding people who use cannabis, (2) media portrayal of cannabis users, and (3) hesitation in disclosing cannabis use. Stigma creates situations in which older Veterans may be hesitant to disclose their use of cannabis with physicians and friends/family, which can be dangerous and socially isolating. Additional research is needed to expand upon our findings with more generalizable methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-281
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number3
Early online dateMay 31 2022
StatePublished - 2023


  • Medical Cannabis
  • Older Adults
  • Qualitative
  • Stigma
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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