How To Talk To Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Medical cannabis is legal in 29 states (and recreational use is legal in eight), but thanks to longstanding myths, there’s still some stigma around talking about it with medical professionals. In fact, a recent survey of medical cannabis patients in California found an almost universal fear of being labeled a “stoner” – this despite a poll of doctors showing 76 percent favored the use of medical cannabis (even if they weren’t quite sure of the best ways to go about it).

So how can you bring it up with your doctor? Here are a few tips.

Do Your Homework

Cannabis can ease a variety of ailments, and different strains do different things. Unfortunately, most medical schools don’t educate doctors about the science of the endocannabinoid system, and instead teach that cannabis is a drug of abuse. That means many doctors don’t know the conditions that cannabis can help, nor the various ways it can be consumed – so you’ll need to have some of that basic knowledge yourself. (Want to really impress? Print a copy of Dr. Ethan Russo’s “Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System” and bring it along.)

Be Honest

Your communication with your doctor is confidential, so if you’re already consuming cannabis, you should feel comfortable saying so (and if your doctor’s worried they’ll get in trouble for talking about it with you, they’re legally protected, too – the Supreme Court says so).

Explain what you’re using – or want to use – and what you’re hoping the outcome will be. This is where the homework you’ve already done will come in handy.

The reason why many physicians become medical cannabis specialists is because they had a patient, friend or family member who asked them about using cannabis. While they may not initially know anything about using cannabis medicinally, they can (and often will) do their own research. That research will often lead them to peer-reviewed articles from prestigious scientific journals about the therapeutic benefits (like the anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties of cannabinoids), and encourage them to continually educate themselves on the medicinal uses for cannabis.

The point here is that you may be the person who educates your doctor or changes his or her mind about cannabis, opening the door for more treatment options for your doctor and other patients. So don’t be shy.

Know When to Walk Away

Let’s say you’ve done everything right – you’ve read, you’ve researched, you know the pros and cons, and you’ve had an honest conversation with your doctor. Even still, they’re resistant to medical cannabis. There could be a lot of personal and professional reasons for that, and they should be respected. But just because it’s the end of the conversation with that doctor doesn’t mean it’s the end of the conversation for you. It does, however, mean you may need to consider finding a doctor who’s more open to making medical cannabis part of your overall treatment.

If you don’t currently use medical cannabis but have a friend who does, ask for a referral to their doctor. Additionally, there are websites and apps with directories of physicians who include cannabis in their treatment options (including the one I work for).

Above all, know your rights, and be your own best advocate. This is your health – you have the right to work with a doctor who’ll collaborate with you on the type of care you can both feel good about.