Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Exercise and Health Sciences


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr David Ryder

Second Advisor

Professor Perilou Goddard


Historically, cannabis has been used as a pharmaceutical drug for a variety of conditions including rheumatism, depression, convulsions, and malaria. Since the 1970s, randomised, controlled clinical trials have shown cannabis to be effective in the treatment of debilitating medical conditions including nausea and vomiting resulting from cancer chemotherapy, wasting syndrome associated with HIV/AIDS, and chronic pain. Despite scientific evidence, as of 2011, when the material for this thesis was collected, only 17 states of the United States (U.S.) and the District of Columbia had enacted medical cannabis laws allowing patients with specific medical conditions to use cannabis without being criminally prosecuted. This thesis examines two components of the medical cannabis policy: the medical cannabis policy process in five representative states of the U.S., and the factors influencing the formation of such a process. The first part of the thesis chronologically documents the passing, attempts to pass, and failure to pass medical cannabis policies in five U.S. states; two with a current medical cannabis law; one where attempts to pass a law have been made, but a law has not yet been passed; and two states where no or few attempts at passing a medical cannabis law have been made. The second part of the thesis used a questionnaire to elicit the factors influencing policies as perceived by three groups. Group one comprised individuals directly involved in the medical cannabis policy process in at least one of the five states referred to above and group two comprised individuals participating in research in the alcohol and other drug field. Group four comprised members of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP). The study found that, despite the expectation that the same rules would apply to cannabis as other medicine, the medical cannabis process appears to be less medically and more politically driven, with scientific evidence having limited influence. The results suggest that there are a number of interlinking factors which played a role in the passing or failure to pass medical cannabis laws in U.S. states, and the level of influence of these factors can vary according to context or conditions placed on them. Three major themes emerged in relation to the factors influencing policy: the role of scientific evidence, the political process, and the interaction between factors. It is hoped that this thesis will be viewed as an observation of the medical cannabis process, not only from the researcher’s point of view but from the views of those who participated in the process, researched the process, or observed the changes in medical cannabis laws over the years


Paper Location