Knowledge Gaps and Varying Attitudes Towards Medical Cannabis in Healthcare

Written by Petar Petrov

Medical cannabis is now very widespread, but ironically, cannabis knowledge among healthcare professionals who are in charge of recommending it isn’t.

This has resulted in significant knowledge gaps and varying attitudes towards cannabis across the fields of medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, which demonstrates the need for a standardized medical cannabis education. [1]

To address that, a team of researchers conducted a study, which analyzed “the existing literature surrounding the education of medical cannabis in allied health professional training programs worldwide” and reported health professionals’ views on medical cannabis and their understanding of the potential benefits and risks involved.

The researchers examined the available literature on PubMed, ERIC, CINAHL, and Web of Science, which rank for common search terms, keywords, terminology, and synonyms. Additionally, the researchers looked through the referenced articles as well as ones that referenced their initial selection, which took them to Google Scholar, MedEd, Medline, and Proquest Dissertations and Theses. The search even included “grey literature” in order “to account for non-published academic material.”

The search generated 198 non-duplicate articles. Out of them, 167 were excluded because they were out of the study’s scope, leaving them with 31, out of which 8 more were weeded out after a full-text review, leaving 23 studies in total.

“The exclusion criteria consisted of findings that were not based on an empirical study, examined populations outside the scope of this review, or studied substance use or misuse among students.”

The data spans 10 countries: the United States, Canada, Serbia, Russia, Israel, Spain, South Africa, Malta, Belarus, and Poland.

“In general, it was found that there was no structured curriculum or competencies on medical cannabis in most schools,” the study reported.

Four out of the 23 articles used in this review found that most of students’ medical cannabis educations comes from sources outside of school. This naturally correlated with participants’ perceived lack of adequate mentorship, education, and evidence-based knowledge on medical cannabis and respectively their not feeling comfortable to counsel patients on the matter.

But when it came to their actual views on medical cannabis, things got a little more complex.

“[S]tudents’ beliefs about the efficacy of medical cannabis varied depending on culture, religion, location, and prior personal use.”

For instance, a study from Israel established a relation between religion and negative views on cannabis. This is in line with another study from Malta and Russia, in which religious students were less likely to recommend medical cannabis than secular ones.

Unsurprisingly, students who had used cannabis personally knew more about it and respectively were more likely to recommend it to patients. However, it’s worth noting that in this particular case, knowledge can potentially be skewed by students’ own affinity for cannabis.

Nevertheless, the fact still stands that there are knowledge gaps, as well as culture- and religion-based biases, among healthcare professions regarding cannabis that need to be addressed.



[1] Zolotov Y, Metri S, Calabria E, Kogan M. Medical cannabis education among healthcare trainees: A scoping review. Complement Ther Med. 2021;58:102675. [journal impact factor = 2.305; times cited = 7]

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.

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