Cannabidiol (CBD) is commonly used to manage symptoms in conditions and diseases for which there is limited clinical research for its application. How consumers arrive and decide to use CBD for medical treatment, despite lacking clinical evidence, is largely unknown. In this paper, we seek to identify the informational pathways through which consumers arrive at CBD for medical purposes.
GoFundMe.com campaigns fundraising to purchase CBD between June 2017 and May 2019 were collected using the Crowdfunding for Health Research Portal (CHRP). Product descriptions were thematically analyzed to determine pathways leading to incorporation of CBD into medical treatment. Campaign characteristics such as fundraising ask, funding received, location, campaign title, description, Facebook shares, and number of donors were recorded. Specific medical uses of CBD proposed in campaigns were tabulated.
The study identified 164 crowdfunding campaigns primarily from the USA (n=159), with several from Canada (n=5). The campaigns requested $2,219,284.24 (median, $7,000) and raised $610,612.87 (median, $1,805) from 6,825 donors (median, 26). Many campaigns asked for other treatments or illness-related costs not specific to CBD.
The campaigns were shared 42,299 times on Facebook (median, 156 shares). Three informational pathways were identified leading to incorporation of CBD into medical treatment, which were self-directed research (n=149), recommendations from a trusted care provider (n=36), and/or experiential insights shared by someone associated with or influencing the crowdfunders personal network (n=30).
The proposed uses of CBD were for cancer (n=96), seizure-inducing diseases/conditions (n=48), other/unspecified (n=6), joint/inflammatory diseases (n=6), mental health disorders (n=3), nervous system diseases (n=3), and autoimmune diseases (n=2).
Our results suggest that consumers crowdfunding come to CBD through internally motivated reasons versus exposure to advertisements or other forms of marketing. Campaign beneficiaries generally had an unmet medical need that other forms of treatment were not satisfying. Then, through one or more of the informational pathways identified, CBD is considered a potential solution.