Discussing Medical Cannabis with Your Doctor

With the introduction of the new Accessing Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) released by Health Canada on August 24, 2016, accessing and growing medical cannabis is less challenging than ever before. But visiting the doctor is often already a very stressful experience, so discussing medical cannabis with your healthcare professional can be a daunting task. I hope this article will prepare you to speak with your doctor about medical cannabis.

Good Luck.

Don’t Expect Miracles

If you haven’t seen a doctor in five years and are expecting this to be a fast process, I hate to disappoint you, but taking control of your own health does take some time, work, and commitment. Still, it can be done and the benefits far outweigh the effort.

The first step, if you haven’t already done so, is to find a doctor. Call every clinic in your area and ask if any of the doctors are seeing new patients. Ask to be put on waiting lists if possible and keep calling if you have to. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with an excess of doctors, feel free to shop until you find a physician you feel comfortable with.

If you have a doctor but haven’t seen them in some time, realize that it will take time to reestablish a relationship before you begin discussing medical cannabis. You may have to start slowly, but again, feeling better will be worth it in the end.

And if you already unequivocally know that your doctor will not support your use of medical cannabis, request a referral to another GP or specialist in your illness(es).

Be Informed & Prepared

Do your research. Know your condition and the therapies available, both pharmaceutical and otherwise. Be ready to discuss those options with your healthcare professional.

a) Have reliable, scientifically sourced information available: How many grams a day do you think you will need? What system of delivery do you plan to use? Do you plan on vapourizing, eating, juicing or making your own topicals?  Be ready to answer these questions as well as provide credible medical studies involving your illness and cannabis.

This may require some research on your part but there is information available. This list is a great resource.

b) The Canadian Medical Association has shown a lack of support for medical marijuana programs, making some doctors afraid to prescribe for fear of liability. There are a few ways to address this with your doctor but there are options:

Cannabinoid clinics are now available that specialize in cannabis and cannabinoid therapies. You can simply ask your doctor for a referral to one of these clinics, many of which will provide out-of-province consultations via Skype, e.g. Lift.co clinic list.

c) It is also important to make sure what is being submitted to the government includes all necessary information.

This is a sample of what your medical document should look like.

Beware of “Drug Seeking Behaviour”

Doctors are not accustomed to patients asking for cannabis, and have been taught by the Canadian Medical Association and Health Canada to be wary of patients that “seek drugs”; with the rise in pharmaceutical drug abuse, this is understandable.

Your doctor is still a person, and the medical cannabis issue is a confusing one even for them. When the medical marijuana program was first introduced, doctors were encouraged not to participate out of fear of losing their insurance for recommending an unregulated substance. There have since been great strides in the medical community in regards to discussing medical cannabis among themselves, but medical professionals still need educating.

Before discussing medical cannabis with your doctor, try to consider how to best word your request, and be as gentle as possible. Acknowledge all of your treatment options, voice your concerns about side effects, and be prepared to compromise….

Be Willing to Compromise

Cannabis is an incredible medicinal plant — which in some cases can help people reduce or give up their pharmaceutical medications — but do not expect your doctor to jump on that bandwagon right away.

You may need to go for tests, see specialists, and try other drugs. No one likes this part, but your willingness to compromise is key because that’s exactly what you are about to ask your doctor to do for you!

If your doctor is wary, ask them to compromise by prescribing for a shorter time period (3–6 months) during which time you’d welcome them to observe your progress. After this trial you can discuss renewal.

Be Patient

Getting a prescription will most likely not happen on your first visit. Leave the information and forms with your physician and ask them to look them over, go for all tests and referral appointments, and inquire about it on your next appointment. If they object, ask them why, and do your best to refute their objections calmly, rationally, and with facts.

Even a no may not be in vain. More and more information is becoming available every day so even if your doctor does not sign, do not give up. Most patients are required to see a number of healthcare professionals and specialists on our journey to better health — continue discussing medical cannabis with all of them! You may not get the result you were looking forward to but the information you shared may very well help another patient in the future.

Do Not Give Up … EVER!

This may be a difficult experience for you, but this is your health and you have the right to take control of it. We all owe a lot to the medical community but they are not infallible and not all doctors received “A”s in medical school. Keep trying, keep educating, and keep discussing medical cannabis with your doctor. And if you have been unfairly charged money for a recommendation, or feel mistreated or discriminated against by a doctor because of your choice of therapy, file a complaint with your province’s college of surgeons and physicians.

Now What?

Where do you get your medical marijuana once you do have a recommendation?

This is where the new ACMPR really gives patients some choice and control over their own health. You have three options:

1) Purchase marijuana from a Health Canada approved Licensed Producer by sending them your medical document and registering with them. They will send your product via courier straight to your door.

The current list of Licensed Producer can be found here.

2) You can register with Health Canada to grow your own medical cannabis and purchase seeds or clones from an authorized Licensed Producer as well as medical marijuana until your first harvest.

3) You can designate another person to grow on your behalf.

The forms to register your grow and/or designate a grower can be found here.

The full Accessing Medical Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations are here.

We do expect that there will be further changes as our government continues on the road to legalization. Check back with us here at Twelve High Chicks as we track the program’s progress and learn what these new regulations will mean for dispensaries and extract producers, both of which are still prohibited under these new regulations.

** Special thanks to Erin “Butterfly” Maloughney for the inspiration and the title.