Talking to Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Dec 23, 2022
Last updated:
Jan 22, 2024

Are you nervous about talking to your doctor about medical cannabis? You aren’t alone.

Since doctors began prescribing medical cannabis in Australia circa 2016, more than 370,000 applications have already been submitted and approved for medical cannabis prescriptions. Still, not all doctors are familiar with cannabis as an alternative medicine. The lingering stigma around cannabis means some doctors still are uncomfortable discussing the topic.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you feel that medical cannabis could benefit you, but you haven’t talked to your doctor yet. You may feel nervous about their reaction or worried about hearing a “No.”

A conversation is the first step in finding out what your options are. So here is how to prepare for that discussion and what alternative actions you can take to find a truly judgment-free medical cannabis doctor.

Medical Cannabis in Australia: A Fundamental Understanding

older man on hillside at sunset, hiking
Don't be afraid talk to your doctor about medical cannabis

The only way to obtain medical cannabis in Australia is with a prescription, so a conversation with your doctor is necessary.

Some people may feel nervous about broaching the subject with their doctor, but what you’re asking about is legal. Like other medications, it’s managed through the TGA and deemed a safe alternative.

Right now, patients access cannabis through something called the Special Access Scheme. Although only two cannabis prescriptions have been included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) list to date, doctors can still prescribe other cannabis products to their patients.

Through the Special Access Scheme, there are now hundreds of medical cannabis products, including flower, cannabis oils, topicals, and sprays. Chronic pain, anxiety, and depression are among the most common conditions treated by medical cannabis in Australia.

The critical takeaway for patients is that, as it stands, the only way to access medical cannabis in Australia is to get a prescription from a medical cannabis doctor. Just like you would get a prescription for other medications, you’ll need to speak with a doctor for cannabis as well.

How To Prepare for Your Conversation

As part of the criteria for prescribing medical cannabis, a doctor needs to understand your medical history and other medications and treatments you’ve tried in the past. This helps them understand your experience and whether cannabis is an appropriate next step.

Remember that it is okay to ask questions about medical cannabis. By now, many doctors have experience fielding questions about this novel treatment option from other patients.

Here’s what you can do to prepare:

  • Write down any questions you have beforehand
  • Document medications or treatments you’ve tried in the past
  • Research alternatives that could benefit your condition

What Happens if Your Doctor Says No?

Legal issues have kept cannabis out of the medical classroom for decades, so many doctors are not trained on how cannabis works. If your doctor has a negative reaction, it’s important to realise that it’s probably not personal.

Your doctor may be on the fence about cannabis, especially if they don’t understand it thoroughly. Medical cannabis is still new to many healthcare professionals, and for some, there is a level of discomfort regarding how to recommend it.

Talking to your doctor about medical cannabis should be a relief and give hope. Remember that you are simply asking for their expertise and advice on something legal and approved by other medical professionals.

It’s Time To Talk to a Doctor

Talking to your doctor is the first step to finding out if medical cannabis could benefit you. If you are concerned about the judgment you might face from your regular GP, consider reaching out to a dedicated medical cannabis clinic, where doctors experienced in cannabis care will be able to assess your condition and make a decision as to whether you could benefit from a medical cannabis prescription.

There are a number of risks associated with the use of medical cannabis and your doctor will explain these to you before issuing a prescription. Medical cannabis affects everyone differently and may not help with your chronic condition.

Related articles