How to Talk to Your Doctor about Cannabis

An Editorial by Dr. Dave Hepburn


By now you’ve heard enough positive reports from experts like Drs. Sanjay Gupta, Mehmet Oz and George Carlin to realize that medical cannabis may well be a safe, effective and tolerable option to addressing that problematic migraine/insomnia/pain/anxiety/knee/psoriasis and even those unflattering bowel issues that render you rather reticent to ride along with the morning elevator crowd. Your friends and family, somewhat tired of the dinner updates of your current flatus status, have encouraged you to talk to your doctor about this whole medical cannabis thing. Problem is… you’re not sure how. What if they’re against it, scold me, or think I’m a pothead? (even though at 103 years old, you’ve never jaywalked or sipped a cider and you believe Cheech and Chong is Balinese theatre).

Believe it or not I have heard all the above from concerned patients, friends and relatives with assorted gastrointestinal issues. More and more physicians are beginning to appreciate the possibility, potential and promise of cannabinoids. But doctors can be buffoons. I am reminded of this fact daily, usually by my kids, mother, patients, and their mothers.

Some doctors have yet to delve into the science of cannabis, while others simply aren’t sure of the authorizing process (it’s not even a prescription), so they punt and suggest you go to a “cannabis clinic”. Others suffer from cannaphobia. But doctors also have pharmaphobia, a disdain for prescribing sleeping pills, benzos (anxiolytics) and many types of pain pills including, of course, opiates. So here is a wee primer of how to talk to Dr. I.B. Flawless about using medical cannabis to help you and your long-suffering dinner companions.

1. Soundbite Number ONE. “I’m not interested in getting high; I’m interested in getting help. Even if you don’t know much about medical cannabis, do you not trust me?” Explain that you don’t want to smoke it (though vaporizing is a safe and often effective option for migraines, nausea etc.). Most folks prefer the oils which now come in capsules, meaning they will look like pills and pills are fabulous, familiar and gluten-free. Please don’t use words like weed, pot, joint, toke or even the pejorative “marijuana”. It’s “medical cannabis” and the active medical ingredients are cannabinoids. It is medicine. Also avoid words like lawsuit, lawyer, legal or absquatulate.


2. Hand your doctor one and ONLY one scholarly article that you’ve printed off about whatever ails you, be it a specific disease, like migraines, IBS, anxiety or even a symptom like pain or insomnia. Google cannabis + (insert your favourite disease) to find these articles.


3. And while you have your Googler up and Googling, do a quick read about the remarkable endocannabinoid system (ECS) discovered in the 1990’s. You will now be aware that our bodies, in fact, make our very own personalized cannabis! Furthermore, we have natural receptors for cannabis throughout that aforementioned body of ours. This allows you to use Soundbite Number TWO “Doctor, as you likely already know, even though the ECS is so abundant in our brain, spleen, bowels and bones, there are no cannabinoid receptors in the brainstem…so nobody ever dies of it. It is nontoxic and is so much safer than benzos, sleeping pills, narcotics and even NSAIDS (Advil-like drugs that often lead to stomach bleeds)

All prescriptions require that the risk:benefit ratio be considered by the doctor, but not all doctors do. Cannabis, however, is incredibly safe. Children are given cannabis for seizures.


4. Make it easy for the doctor. Doctors hate paperwork. In fact, when we swear the Oath of Narcissus, we affirm that we wish to do no harm to people OR maple trees; hence we do all in our power to avoid paperwork. When Dr. I.B. Flawless sees that all that is needed is their signature and a single digit, they will be as thrilled as a mosquito in a nudist colony. But NEVER begin a doctor visit by handing them a form to fill out, end with it. Before going into the office, do your homework and learn what is required to be authorized in your specific jurisdiction. If in Canada, first contact any LP (Licensed Producer) from this list for help with the forms.


Dr. I.B. Flawless will never admit that they are biased or frightened or even too busy to learn about it, so they may interject because interjecting/injecting are kind of our things.

“There haven’t been enough studies.”

“I don’t want you to get high, addicted, psychotic, blah blah.”

“I don’t believe in it.” (Whatever that means? It’s not Santa Claus, it’s actually there.)

“I don’t know enough about it.”

This is where you interject, because it’s your health, and you, not your doctor, are responsible for your health. That means, at times, you need to take charge. Explain that you’re not interested in going on narcotics (cannabis is NOT a narcotic) or sleeping pills or Valium. Add a little history here for Soundbite Number THREE. “When alcohol was prohibited and cannabis was legal, doctor’s used cannabis for a host of conditions. In fact, when cannabis was made illegal in 1937, strictly for political purposes, the ONLY organization that stood up against that act was the American Medical Association.”

Before you leave the appointment, ask one of their office staff, often named The Colonel, to help and follow through. They not only run the office, most also run the doctor.


If all else fails… find out which elevator they take.

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