Enlarge “Cannabis 01 bgiu”. Licensed under Creative Commons While scientists scramble to conduct research on medical marijuana, initial surveys of patients say that the drug is the best available treatment for them and has fewer side effects than other options. The survey, conducted by Cambridge-based patient network PatientsLikeMe , is one of the first to gauge how patients who are using medical marijuana feel about the drug. A total of 219 patients — out of 1,288 invited — participated in the survey, which was conducted in June. “As more people consider using medical marijuana, and more states legalize it, patients need to know what others are experiencing,” said Sally Okun , PatientsLikeMe’s vice president for advocacy, policy, and patient safety. “This survey starts to gather real world data about marijuana as medicine—information that may be useful for patients and their physicians as they explore options and make treatment decisions.” Approximately half the respondents have been using marijuana as medicine — the plant, synthetic THC or cannabinoids — for the last five years. Another 25 percent started using it in the last two years. Smoking (71 percent), edibles (55 percent) and vaporizing (49 percent) were the most popular methods people used to take the drug, mostly for multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and depression.