A Majority of Physicians Obtain Cannabis Education from Conferences

Written by Lydia Kariuki

Cannabis is classified under schedule 1 and is therefore illegal under federal law. The protracted era of cannabis prohibition has deterred cannabis education and made it difficult for medical schools to include cannabis in the curricula. As much as medical cannabis has been legal at the state level since 1996, not much is known about physicians’ levels of awareness and knowledge.

A survey carried out in the fall of 2017 has revealed a number of interesting facts about the awareness, knowledge, and practices of physicians prescribing medical cannabis in California and other states that have legalized the plant. [1]

Currently, 38 U.S states have legalized cannabis for medical use. In these states, patients with a qualifying medical condition can access treatment through the state’s medical cannabis program. Before being enrolled in the program, patients have to get a recommendation from a physician.

The survey that was published in Cannabis Cannabinoid Research revealed that over 70% of physicians obtained their cannabis education from conferences. The survey drew participants from the Society of Cannabis Clinicians which was formed in 2004. The society consists of physicians and other allied healthcare professionals involved in medical cannabis from around the world.

The survey was carried out in the fall of 2017. Requests for participation were sent out electronically to all physicians who were registered as members of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. Out of 133 eligible members, 45 voluntarily completed the survey, with no reward incentive. Here are some of the findings from the survey:

  • 71% received most of their cannabis education from conferences
  • Only one participant received cannabis education from medical school
  • 56% felt that there was sufficient information on medical cannabis to support the practice of cannabis medicine
  • Over 75% felt that they were sufficiently knowledgeable about cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system

The physicians had made 100-5,000 recommendations for medical cannabis during this period, with a median of 1,200 recommendations. Over 80% got patient referrals from physicians in mainstream medical practice.

The researchers did not find any significant variance in knowledge between physicians in California and those in other states. However, the researchers still concluded that there’s a need for formal cannabis education and training in medical schools.


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[1] Takakuwa KM, Mistretta A, Pazdernik VK, Sulak D. Education, knowledge, and practice characteristics of cannabis physicians: A survey of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2021;6(1):58-65. [journal impact factor = 5.800; times cited = 8]

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Lydia Kariuki

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