Health a popular reason for growing cannabis

In the first study of its size in Australia, the National Drug Research Institute is conducting an anonymous online survey to find out more about people who grow small amounts of cannabis in their backyards, cupboards and sheds.

A research fellow at the institute, Monica Barratt, said about 250 people had taken part so far and it was hoped the responses would double in coming months before the information was collated and compared with similar studies in the US, Canada, UK and across Europe.

"The majority grow for personal use and also to avoid contact with criminals," Dr Barratt said, ahead of her presentation at a major alcohol and drug conference in Melbourne this week.

Almost half the survey respondents said they grew cannabis for medicinal purposes, including people hoping to improve their appetite while taking medication for cancer and HIV, Dr Barratt said.

Nearly all the respondents were men with a median age of 34. More than half