Sunday March 1, 2020
By Andrew Ward
Talking about cannabis has gotten easier for much of the public in recent years. The eroding stigma surrounding the plant now allows many people to speak freely about their use with their medical practitioner, whether it be THC or CBD. In legal states, people are that much more likely to speak freely to their physicians about their use. In these instances, marijuana consumption isn't looked down upon. Instead, it runs a chance of being factored into a patient's treatment plan just as any other medication or diet may.
This is not the case for many in conservative states though, where speaking to medical professionals about cannabis use can result in tense conversations or possibly worse. That is, if a physician will even speak to you about it at all. Even in legalized states, certain subjects may not want to discuss their use for fears of what it could do to them and their families.
Here, we'll explore how to speak to a physician about your cannabis use and what to keep in mind.
Speaking with Your Physician about Cannabis
First and foremost, understand that it is okay to talk about medical marijuana with a medical professional. Talking with your doctor about medical cannabis is legal in any state. Such discussions are covered by the federal government under the First Amendment. As such, what you inquire about is protected and won't result in any punishment.
This is likely a refreshing change for most Americans. In other situations, however, people may not be allowed to discuss their use for fear of its consequences. For example, in legal adult use states like California, cannabis use can complicate custody disputes. In this case, discussing your usage could open the possibility of it being cited in a parental rights case.
Try to Talk to Your Primary Care Physician (PCP) First
Your PCP is going to have the best understanding of your body and its unique circumstances. If possible, consult with them first about your cannabis use or any inquiries you may have. That said, if you don't have access to a PCP at this time, you can schedule a consultation with a registered doctor in legalized markets. This can be done online or in the doctor's office, depending on state laws.
Pushback is Possible. Come Prepared.
Despite it being safe to speak about cannabis, there is no assurance that a physician will be on board with its use, be it medical or self-prescribed. A growing number of physicians have warmed to cannabis as a medical treatment, despite its ongoing federal status. Many of those have registered with their state's programs to offer recommendations for patients. Still, many have either not enrolled in their state's program, whether they support the law or not.
If you continue to experience pushback, you may want to give up with that physician. It may be frustrating to continue looking for a cannabis-friendly doctor, but keep at it. Thanks to a growing demand in cannabis, most will be able to find a doctor they can discuss the matter with.
In just about any other situation, deferring to doctor's wisdom is often a sound choice. However, in the case of cannabis, patients may know more than them. If you are worried that your doctor falls into this camp, consider bringing along some research materials from Americans for Safe Access. They were created for just this situation.
Cannabis Laws Vary By State
Currently, the only uniform policy on cannabis is that the federal government still prohibits it. Otherwise, on the state level, things can and do vary as you cross state lines. As such, those talking to a physician about seeking a medical card could receive a range of answers, depending on the state and which conditions qualify for coverage.
Despite varying laws, patients shouldn't be worried too concerned with speaking to a physician in legalized markets, according to Philip S. Kim, MD. The CEO and founder of Delaware's Center for Interventional Pain and Spine told Practical Pain Management in 2019 that "The states that have medical marijuana usually have amendments that protect patients and physicians from federal laws."
Still Unsure? Try Mentioning a "Friend"
If you still aren't comfortable speaking with your physician about your marijuana use, you could always try the “my friend” method. Using this approach allows you to discuss your usage without clearly implicating yourself to your doctor. The same can work with you mentioning a family member, colleague or whoever close you'd like.
Keep in mind, however, that doctors are trained in detecting fraudulent and deceptive behavior. While you aren't an addict trying to scam the hospital out of opioids, but you're still not being honest. The physician is likely going to pick up on what's going on. As such, honesty is the best policy in most cases.
When ready to discuss cannabis with a professional, be clear and transparent about your consumption. Be forthcoming about your experiences and why you use the plant. Providing your doctor with such information will improve the chances that you receive adequate care that meets your medical needs.
Do you discuss your cannabis use with your doctor? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.