The Need To Know Weed | Doctors Lack Knowledge Of Medical Cannabis

doctors lack knowledge medical cannabis

Salutations! Professor Harvest is at it again, this time bringing you an update on the knowledge levels of our medical doctors. As more and more countries and states start to legalise cannabis used for medical purposes, a worrying trend is emerging. It appears that medical staff across all disciplines and levels of expertise lack basic understanding of cannabis as medicine. That’s bad news, because every day, more people start to use CBD extracts and other types of medicinal cannabis products to treat a huge range of symptoms. As we say here at the Coffeeshop Info Centre: “Get Smart Before You Get High”. Looks like it’s time doctors and medical students got smarter too, don’t you agree?

Cannabis And Mainstream Medicine

Seriously though, conventional medicine and natural cannabis-based treatments are drawing closer together in terms of common use. More and more countries open up to the possibilities of using cannabinoids to influence the human endocannabinoid system (ECS), a recently discovered part of our nervous system. Medical cannabis treatment is about using natural remedies instead of chemically synthesised drugs. Benefits involved would definitely include less side effects and lower toxicity, but there’s more. They could also involve lower costs and an organic, ‘true-to-nature’ perspective on health and on treating disease.

Next To Nothing

That may all sound wonderful, for patients and healthcare budgets alike, but there is a problem. Recent surveys conducted among health professionals have revealed a serious lack of knowledge on the subject. Most doctors, nurses and other medical experts know next to nothing about cannabinoids, their effects, and the existence of the endocannabinoid system in general.


This lack of information is deeply troubling. If your doctor or nurse does not know about the potential benefits and drawbacks of cannabinoid treatments, then how can they inform you about whether to use them or not? Imagine your doctor not knowing about the basic workings of aspirin. Suppose you came in for a consult because you suffer from back aches, and you were prescribed morphine because the good doctor didn’t know aspirin existed. You would be missing a treatment option that is much safer than what the doctor prescribed. That would have serious consequences for your chances of a speedy recovery. Not only that; it would expose you to side-effects and possible addiction that could easily be avoided by prescribing aspirin. Obviously, the same line of reasoning applies to cannabis.


Clearly, there is a lack of balance in the system here. It seems as if a new country is legalising medical cannabis every other week, and yet, the curriculum of most medical students today does not cover the ECS, cannabinoids, or cannabis in general at all. Do keep in mind that this lack of training will stick to professionals worldwide for decades to come, as they are not even practising medicine yet. Most doctors and nurses currently working in hospitals and practices received their training years ago, at a time when even less was known about the medicinal uses of cannabis.

endocannabinoid system
endocannabinoid nervous system

The Need To Know Weed

Interestingly, most of the doctors and nurses in the surveys indicated that they would like to learn more about the possibilities of cannabis in medicine. That should give us hope. It opens up a space for creating platforms that educate the experts on this relatively new field of research. And in fact, some of these platforms are already taking shape as we speak. Across the world, but particularly in countries where medical marijuana is (partly) legal, scientists and educators are setting up training courses for professionals and non-professionals alike. Hopefully, these initiatives will help raise awareness of the problem. They may also help dispel the many misconceptions that still exist about cannabis today, even among university-level medical experts.

The Road Ahead

The road ahead may seem bumpy, but small steps forward are being taken all the time. Hopefully, we will see the tide change within the next decade, at least in countries with tolerant policies for use of medical cannabis. That would be seriously helpful. Not just for people suffering from a wide range of afflictions including epilepsy, anxiety, arthritis, and even cancer, mind you. It could also help break the current monopoly of the major pharmaceutical companies that dominate the medical world. These organisations employ powerful lobbying groups that keep on pulling politicians away from tackling this lack of very real medical expertise.

What You Can Do For Yourself

One option is of course just to wait and see what happens. Another approach may help speed up the process of cannabis enlightenment, though – one in which we can all play a part. I mean, why don’t we just try and start educating our own doctors, one at a time? If you visit your own general practitioner, house doctor, or whatever you call your personal medical expert where you live, you may notice they are not aware of cannabinoids as an option for treatment. That could be CBD, THC, or any of the many other cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant and its extracts. They may not know about the endocannabinoid system in humans, either. If you are interested in giving these options a go, talk to your physician about it. Let them know more research is published every day.

Personal Experience

One way to start the conversation with your doctor is to share your personal experiences using (medical) cannabis to treat specific symptoms. Another way is encouraging them to find their own information among the medical journals and official channels they consult. The advantage of the latter approach is objectivity. You’re not asking the doctor to take your word for it; they can find discussions on medical cannabis in a wide range of expert sources.

Last Resort

If you find that your doctor is absolutely opposed to the idea, consider getting a second opinion from a colleague, or to switch doctors altogether. If nothing seems to work in your situation, there is a third option. Obviously, you could just try and work your way around your doctor and start (or continue) ‘cannabis self-medication’. As a responsible professor and cannabis educator, though, I have to say this is a last resort option. It’s better to have the support of your doctor before you start using cannabis for medical purposes.

Educate Your Doctor

Not only is it better to have someone checking the progress of treatment; you’ll also have a professional to discuss your options and possible interactions with other medication and treatments. Perhaps even more importantly, involving your doctor is yet another step towards educating medical experts on medical marijuana by giving them a fact-based, first-hand account of its many possibilities!

That’s it for now… Good luck on your medical and non-medical cannabis adventures and until next time!

Yours clinically, Professor Harvest