We are pleased to share a new survey has been funded and launched to investigate the impact of legalization of cannabis upon persons living with HIV and their use of cannabis as a symptom management tool.

To participate in this study, participants must:

  • Identify as an adult living with HIV in Canada
  • Use cannabis to reduce and manage symptoms (for example, appetite loss, weight loss (wasting), nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, etc.)
  • Be able to complete the online survey in English or French


“This research project is looking for participants to take an online survey on the use of cannabis for HIV symptom management. The broad objective of this study is to understand the experience of people living with HIV who use cannabis to help reduce and manage their symptoms. Specifically, this survey covers three broad categories of questions:

  • The use of cannabis to reduce and manage symptoms
  • The impact of legalization on cannabis use and access
  • The impact of COVID-19 on cannabis use and access

​The study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Principal Investigator is Dr. Marilou Gagnon of the University of Victoria. Members of the research team include: Dr. Adrian Guta, Dr. Zach Walsh, Dr. Carol Strike, Dr. Jason Nickerson, Nancy Chow, Richard Elliott, and Trevor Stratton.”


The VCBC was founded in part by Ted’s motivation to start the VCBC after meeting a local baker who made cannabis cookies for HIV positive patients.   Ted took inspiration from this work and knew that patients needed this medicine in a low cost, high potency avenue that was easy for sick people to access.  

When we received the introductory email about this research project we were elated to help in whatever way we could. We had the opportunity to meet the lead researcher, Dr. Marilou Gagnon of the University of Victoria, and to ask her some questions about the project and her work as a nurse and a community activist and researcher.

Dr. Marilou Gagnon has been a nurse for twenty years, working in emergency rooms and eventually landing in an HIV clinic.  This experience put her on a path to pursue further education and to become an HIV researcher from a nurses perspective.  Her research findings on HIV symptom management pointed her to the conclusion that cannabis was one of the most effective tools patients relied on for their symptoms.  

Emphasizing that she was not a cannabis researcher, she never set out to research the medicinal benefits of cannabis.  Instead it was her research with persons with HIV/AIDS that discussed the benefits of cannabis instead of prescription drugs for managing their symptoms.  Her research brought her to cannabis as the answer for many patients.

Her work with the HIV Nurses Association led her down the path of work in harm reduction services which turned into a major focus for her research.  Her study is deeply rooted in harm reduction services, safer consumption sites and working with at-risk populations. Her work on this survey seeks to explore the impact of legalizing cannabis, which is a major policy shift, and to assess its effect upon persons with HIV that rely on cannabis for symptom management. 

Community care, grassroots activism, and harm reduction informed her approach to public policy and research.  When we got to explain some of the history of the VCBC and our work in harm reduction and community care, Dr. Gagnon expressed that she felt her work had come full circle.  She started in 2002 working with HIV positive persons and harm reduction, and the club was founded in 1996 to help get medicine to HIV positive persons and other patients.  She told us that she was never interested in research for the sake of research, she expressed that her work was never just about HIV, “it was about community, about inequities, you know about all the bigger issues that are still present to this day.”  

This current research survey was originally intended to be a longitudinal study with HIV positive persons being interviewed over the course of three years to assess the impact of legalization of cannabis upon their access to their medicine.  However, life happened and the global Coronavirus pandemic shifted her plans. The project has been re-envisioned as an online survey to reach patients across Canada and to take a snapshot of what access to cannabis for patients looks like across the nation.  The survey is 68 questions long, and attempts to capture people’s experiences with symptom management, the benefits of cannabis, access pre and post legalization, as well as the impact of COVID-19.  The goal of the project is to survey at least 400 people and to gather data to analyze the impact of legalization and how people use cannabis for their symptom management.  

At the end of this project, Dr. Gagnon expressed that though the survey is focused on HIV patients, the results can be extrapolated to represent the struggles and obstacles that most patients with chronic ailments face in managing their symptoms and accessing cannabis. 

We are so honored to have met Dr. Gagnon and we look forward to working with her on more research projects in the future.



If you are interested in participating in the study, it only takes approximately 30 minutes.  As an incentive, there will be a random cash draw of three prizes ($100, $50, or $25) at the end of the project and will be awarded to participants who voluntarily submit their contact information. 

To participate in this study, participants must:

  • Identify as an adult living with HIV in Canada
  • Use cannabis to reduce and manage symptoms (for example, appetite loss, weight loss (wasting), nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia, etc.)
  • Be able to complete the online survey in English or French