Medical Research News

Assessing Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program from a Healthcare Perspective

Written by Robert Hammell

As of February 3, 2022, 37 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. In Minnesota, medical cannabis was first legislated in 2014 and became available in 2015 for various conditions including epilepsy, cancer, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), and more. As with all medical treatments and procedures, it is only possible to track the effectiveness of the care by tracking the data. To do this, a study was conducted amongst clinicians in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program (MMCP) with a threefold goal: “(1) to assess current opinions and practice patterns regarding use of medical cannabis; (2) to identify barriers to medical cannabis use; and (3) to explore interest in future research and educational opportunities.” [1]


Designing the Study

The 552 oncology providers registered with the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice were asked to fill out a 14-page survey assessing their “practices, knowledge, and attitudes” towards medical cannabis. As well, there was an additional section to evaluate how difficult it is to register patients with MMCP. The survey also included a hypothetical patient with metastasized breast cancer who was suffering from nausea, fatigue, and pain that asked the clinicians to decide if they would support medicinal cannabis with this specific patient. Of the 552 selected for the study, 23 did not receive the study, and a total of 153 providers responded of the remaining 529.


Results of the Study

In the hypothetical case of the breast cancer patient, 65% responded they would recommend medical cannabis use. The respondents also identified many barriers to discussing medical cannabis use with their patients. For some, it was the cost, as medical cannabis is not covered by insurance; for others, it was a lack of research and approval from the FDA; and others were concerned about the side effects, likelihood of abuse, or legal ramifications. [2] In response to this, 36% of respondents claim to be “‘not at all confident’’ or ‘‘somewhat not confident’’’ discussing medical cannabis with their patients. Additionally, 85% of participants showed interest in receiving more training or information on medical cannabis that they could pass on to their patients.


Analyzing the Data Going Forward

In a similar study conducted in 1990, about 48% of oncology providers said they would recommend cannabis to their patients. [2] Comparably, a 2018 study found that 83% of oncology providers support the use of medical cannabis, indicating a growing trend towards acceptance from the medical community. [3] By addressing the barriers and concerns of both providers and patients, acceptance and education can increase while stigmas may dissipate. One of the best ways to do this would be through increased education, as the study notes, “currently, medical oncologists get little to no formal training in medical school, residency, or fellowship on medical cannabis.” This may also benefit medical practitioners in understanding complex cannabis laws, various types of cannabis, and how each may affect the patient, and lead to more data on the effectiveness and safety of medical cannabis.


Image Reference – Medical cannabis



1- Zylla D, Steele G, Eklund J, Mettner J, Arneson T. Oncology clinicians and the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: A survey on medical cannabis practice patterns, barriers to enrollment, and educational needs. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2018;3(1):195-202. [journal impact factor = 5.800; times cited = 27]


2- Doblin RE, Kleiman MA. Marijuana as antiemetic medicine: a survey of oncologists’ experiences and attitudes. J Clin Oncol. 1991;9:1314–1319. [journal impact factor = 44.54; times cited = 112]


Braun IM, Wright A, Peteet J, et al. Medical oncologists’ beliefs, practices, and knowledge regarding Marijuana used therapeutically: A nationally representative survey study. J Clin Oncol. 2018;36(19):1957-1962. [journal impact factor = 44.54; times cited = 86]

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Robert Hammell

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