How To: Talk to your Doctor about Medical Cannabis

Talking with your doctor about how medical cannabis can fit into your overall treatment plan can be intimidating. You may be hesitant to talk with your doctor for a variety of reasons but it’s important that you have that conversation.

While doctors have spent countless hours training in a variety of areas, many of them are still unfamiliar with the existing research that supports the recommendation of medical cannabis as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for an array of medical conditions and their symptoms. As such, your doctor may be hesitant to recommend medical cannabis, so it’s important to remember to be your own advocate. Being informed, bringing research and evidence to support your claims puts you in a better position.

Doctors are accustomed to patients bringing new ideas to them about treatment options, preferences, and medical cannabis therapy as an alternative treatment option should be no exception.

Remember that your doctor is there to assist you in making the best decisions regarding your health. Some physicians may have negative attitudes toward cannabis use, but if you are prepared to explain how medical cannabis would benefit you as a treatment option, it will increase your chances of receiving their support.

Please remember that medical cannabis is not appropriate for everyone and you may not be a proper candidate to use this treatment option.

If, however, your doctor is reluctant to recommend medical cannabis for you, or if you’re uncomfortable discussing the matter with them, you may wish to contact a medical cannabis specialist. In order to do this, find a medical cannabis clinic in your area and request a referral from your doctor to the clinic.

Tips for talking to your doctor

  • Be prepared to tell your doctor what specific symptoms you want to manage or are managing. If you have medical records relating to the condition or symptoms, bring them with you to the appointment.
  • If you already use medical cannabis, let your doctor know when you began treatment with cannabis, the amount you used (in grams per day), how often, and how it is administered (orally or inhalation).
  • If you have never used cannabis before, get informed; speak to others who use it to manage their symptoms.
  • Bring credible information to your appointments. Recognized medical and scientific journals and Health Canada’s information for health care professionals are good resources to introduce..
  • Make a list of medicines and therapies you have tried previously, identifying the ones that have worked and those that have not and why.
  • If necessary, bring a friend or family member to your appointment as moral support, this makes it easier on you if you are too nervous to bring up the subject with your doctor.
  • Be prepared to bring up alternative methods of inhalation such as vaporization or taking oral tablets; this may help address your physician’s concerns about smoking.
  • Do not expect to receive a ‘medical document’—the document that gives you permission to receive medical cannabis— after only one appointment with your physician. Your physician may need to complete a health assessment or conduct some tests to evaluate your potential risks and benefits before they decide whether you are a candidate to receive medical cannabis.
  • Download and bring required forms such as the ‘medical document’ to your appointment.
  • Contact one of Health Canada’s Licensed Producers and speak with their customer support team should you have any questions or require assistance.