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Posted by: Dr. Michael Verbora

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Medical marijuana is becoming more common as a treatment in Canada. New research is underscoring the possibilities cannabis has as a potential treatment for many different conditions. As more information becomes available, more people are interested in what medical marijuana can do for them.

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As a physician, you’ve likely noticed this trend. Many of your patients are more aware of the possible benefits of medical marijuana. They have questions and want to know whether it could be a viable treatment option for them. If you’re new to medical marijuana yourself, you might wonder how you can answer these inquiries.

Here are some of the most common questions patients ask about medical cannabis, and some tips for how you can answer them.


How Do You Renew an Authorization for Medical Cannabis?

Once a patient has an authorization in hand, they’ll likely ask about the renewal process. Many patients are seeking medical marijuana for the treatment of a chronic condition, which means they’ll continue treatment for extended periods.

Authorizations are only good for a limited amount of time, often listed as periods of days. A patient, for example, could receive an authorization for 90 days, or about three months. After this time, they’ll need to renew the authorization.

To do this, they’ll need to book an appointment with you, a nurse practitioner, or a physician at a medical cannabis clinic. The patient will be reassessed, particularly with regard to how the treatment is working for them. Adjustments, if necessary, will be made and the authorization renewed.


Can You Mix Other Medications with Medical Marijuana?

Patients who have complex health profiles will need guidance as to how they can use medical cannabis safely. They may have other medications to take. You or another medical professional should review the patient’s medications and ensure a combined treatment will be safe for them.

Medications can sometimes interact if they’re taken at the same time or even within hours of each other. A discussion will be needed to optimally incorporate medical marijuana into a patient’s treatment regime.

If new medications are added to the patient’s profile after beginning medical cannabis treatment, you should discuss how best to incorporate the new medication.


Can You Switch Producers?

Most patients are used to some freedom when it comes to making purchase decisions, so they may think they can switch the licensed producer they purchase medical marijuana from.

This is equivalent to switching medication, however, since products vary between producers. A patient might decide to try a different strain or increase their dosage if they were allowed to do this.

Patients must consult with their doctor to switch producers. The patient must be registered with a licensed producer, and they can only purchase from that producer. In some cases, patients can have their authorization split between producers.


Do You Have to Smoke?

Many patients are unaware of the many different forms of medical cannabis available, and some are under the impression medical marijuana must be smoked. This is absolutely not true.

Cannabis oils, prescription cannabinoids, and other forms of medical marijuana are all just as or even more effective. In fact, they’re often safer, and physicians often recommend these forms of cannabis over cannabis that must be smoked.


Is Medical Marijuana Covered by Provincial Healthcare?

Another question patients often have is about pricing and reimbursement. Medical marijuana can be quite expensive, so many patients hope to hear they can have the cost covered by their provincial healthcare program.

Unfortunately, no province in Canada has moved to cover medical marijuana for patients. Only a few insurance companies offer private coverage, which means most people will need to pay out of pocket. Though there is a push for coverage, nothing has been approved yet.

With the answers to these common questions in hand, you can help your patients be better prepared to use medical cannabis effectively as part of their treatment.


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Dr. Michael Verbora

Michael earned an MBA from the University of Windsor’s Odette School of Business in 2009 and an M.D. from Schulich School of Medicine at Western University in 2013, before entering a Family Practice residency at the University of Toronto. A member of the Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids, Doctors for Responsible Access and the Canadian Pain Society, he has completed over 2,000 cannabinoid therapy consultations and has presented many talks in community and hospital settings while serving as student health physician at Seneca College and Medical Director, Canabo Medical Clinic.

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