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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Behavioural economics analysis of recreational and medical cannabis Crosby, Kimberly Anne


Cannabis is among the most widely used psychoactive substances in Canada and there is increasing need to examine the reinforcing effects of the substance. Hypothetical cannabis purchasing tasks have been used to describe the reinforcing value of psychoactive substances. The present body of research examined the utility of cannabis purchasing tasks for modelling recreational and medical cannabis use. It adds to the current body of literature by examining across units of consumption (hits vs grams), the impact of THC potency on recreational use, and the potential for cannabis to serve as a substitute for alcohol or prescription opioid medication. Data were collected from young adult recreational cannabis users (N = 250) and medical cannabis users recruited through a medical cannabis network (N = 410). Participants were presented with hypothetical purchasing tasks asking them how many units (hits or grams) of cannabis they would purchase at 17 price points (ranged $0.00 -$500). Recreational users were randomly assigned to low and high THC conditions. Demand curves were modelled using an Exponentiated Demand equation yielding five distinct metrics theorized to be associated with reinforcing value of cannabis which were compared to cannabis use variables and ratings of pain for medical users. Secondary purchasing tasks asked participants how many units of cannabis they would purchase with concurrently available alcohol and prescription pain medication at both static and varying prices. With respect to potency, there was no difference in demand characteristics across high and low THC cannabis among recreational users. With regard to unit of measurement, a clearer association between demand characteristics and cannabis use variables was apparent for grams of cannabis purchased than hits of cannabis for recreational cannabis. For medical cannabis users, more apparent associations between demand and cannabis use were evident for hits purchased than grams. For both recreational and medical users, cannabis did not serve as a substitute for alcohol. For medical users, prescription pain medication may serve as a partial substitute for cannabis.

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