How to Talk to Your Doctor about Medicinal Cannabis

A few years ago I walked into my doctor’s office, hands shaking from my illness, and asked my doctor, “What do you think about medicinal cannabis?” He looked me in the eye and said, “I know it helps, but don’t think you’re going to get a recommendation from me.” I wasn’t there looking for a recommendation, but was surprised at his response. When pushed about why he would say that his reply was that people take it for the wrong reasons, and we didn’t really discuss it further. As time has passed and more and more clients have shared that they are nervous about discussing medicinal cannabis with their doctors, or have received a negative response when they have, I’m continuously reminded that resources on this topic are still few and far between.

I’m not here to say what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to your own body and your own treatment – that should be entirely up to you. Having personally lived this experience I want to share what I’ve learned to help you decide if, and how, to approach discussing medicinal cannabis with your own doctor.

Know what you are walking into

Step one is to be aware of the myriad reasons why discussing medicinal cannabis therapeutics with your doctor may be challenging. In many cases it’s actually not the doctor’s fault that they can’t help guide you on if this is a viable option for your condition. The sad reality is, they don’t get any formal training on medicinal cannabis in medical school and that puts them at a disadvantage. The lack of education is tragic.

Physicians are held in high esteem by their patients and society and the AMA is more hostile to herbal medicine than to other alternatives to allopathic medicine. Patients wanting to talk to their doctors about medicinal cannabis options encounter 80 years of mis-training around the value of herbal medicines in general by medical schools.

While some doctors may have seen their patients experience benefits, most may have no direct experience at all with what it can do. This, coupled with lack of education and research, fear of professional criticism, or their own personal biases, mean many doctors are just not equipped to have this conversation. Being armed with this background before initiating a discussion on whether medicinal cannabis is right for you can go a long way toward understanding the response you might get.

Questions to ask

As you consider medicinal cannabis therapeutics as part of your personal treatment these are some of the questions you may want to consider asking your doctor. Please keep in mind that we cannot answer these questions for you, but have linked to resources that may help you. Also be advised your doctor might not know, or be hesitant to answer, however these are questions that might help you make the best decision for yourself.

Taking it one step further, there are other things to consider as you evaluate medicinal cannabis as an option, most importantly that standardization and quality of the product are key. Each illness varies and the more serious of a condition you are looking to treat, an edible or vapor pen from just anyone is not necessarily the path.

It’s so important to do your research about where to source your product, look at where it comes from, how it’s made, and who made it. A recent study by Ethan Russo shows and 85 percent contamination rate of all dispensary products tested in Washington, including neurotoxic and carcinogenic agents, which frankly is the last thing sick people (or anyone for that matter!) need in their medicinal cannabis. So ask questions! Here are some next-level questions to ask. Remember, quality makes a huge difference.

  • How do I know the proper dosage?
  • How do I know if it’s being effective?
  • How do I know it’s good cannabis?
  • How do I know if it’s grown organically?  

You can find a great deal of information through the Constance Therapeutics website and we encourage you to fully explore as many sources of information as you can find.

Share your research

If you are considering this discussion with your doctor chances are good that you have already done research on whether this is a viable option for your ailment – plan to share that with your physician. You have a real opportunity to potentially educate him/her about how this can benefit you, as well as their other patients with similar conditions. They may still express resistance, but the decision to use medicinal cannabis therapeutics will remain solely yours and ultimately, the decision to even discuss it with your doctor is completely up to you. The most important thing to remember is it’s your body, your treatment, and your choice.