Medicinal Cannabis: A survey among health care providers in Washington State

Authors: Carlini BH, Garret SB et al.

Reference: American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. 2017: 34 (1): 85 – 91

Summarised on: 26 April 2018

This study investigated Washington State health professionals’ knowledge, beliefs, clinical practices and training needs about medicinal cannabis.

An anonymous online survey was disseminated through health care providers’ professional organisations in Washington State. Participants were asked to rate their knowledge of the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoid medication and the importance of understanding each of these areas.

Participants were also asked what sources they used to keep themselves informed about medicinal cannabis.

A total of 494 health care providers responded to the survey. The majority of respondents were clinicians between 30 to 60 years and women with specialities in family or internal medicine.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents were legally allowed to authorise medicinal cannabis use. Of this 57%, 27% had authorised medicinal cannabis use.

Unsurprisingly, respondents who had provided written authorisation reported higher knowledge of medicinal cannabis. Furthermore, 66% of health professionals who had provided written authorisation felt comfortable/very comfortable doing so.

In comparison, only 6.5% of respondents who had never written an authorisation felt comfortable/very comfortable in doing so. When asked what would increase their comfort, the majority of respondents selected ‘education programs for health care providers,’ ‘more clinical data,’ ‘more research proving effectiveness,’ ‘algorithms for recommending medicinal cannabis,’ ‘endorsed clinical guidelines’ and ‘change in cannabis federal legal status.’

The majority of respondents received information about medicinal cannabis from the news media, followed by patients, other clinicians and medical journals.

Respondents who had written authorisations on medicinal cannabis were more likely to agree with statements that highlighted the benefits of cannabis, and less likely to acknowledge limitations and risks, than their counterparts.

The authors argue the results of the study show that health care providers in Washington State ‘strongly support’ educational opportunities on medicinal cannabis. As the majority of health care professionals are using the news media for information on medicinal cannabis, the authors argue there is need for health care professionals to have access to information from peer-reviewed sources.

As a result of this study, the authors created two training modules which cover the basics of medicinal cannabis.

Although this study is of interest it does have several limitations. The authors say caution should be applied when generalising these findings, and that due to the nature of the survey it was possible for participants to complete the survey more than once, and that this may affect the results.


The College gave evidence to the Health Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill in March 2018. 


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