Managing Arthritis

My doctor tells me cannabis isn’t medicine and won’t prescribe it. What do I do?

My doctor tells me cannabis isn’t medicine and won’t prescribe it. What do I do?

Technically, you don’t get a “prescription” for medical cannabis – you get a ’medical document‘ authorizing you to access a specific amount of cannabis for medical purposes. It still needs to come from an authorized approver – a doctor, or in some provinces a nurse practitioner – but it’s not a prescription.

Still, we hear you – it can be frustrating when you want to have a serious conversation about treatment options, and your doctor shuts you down. It’s worth asking if there’s a medical reason why you should not take cannabis: there are some health conditions that cannabis can actually make worse.

Otherwise, it’s helpful to understand that doctors aren’t taught about the therapeutic properties of cannabis in medical school.They don’t want to suggest something that they worry may be harmful for you, so the lack of clear guidelines for how to handle medical cannabis makes many doctors uncomfortable. They may not be opposed to the idea of cannabis as medicine, they may just not know enough about it themselves to feel that they can give you informed guidance.

Many doctors have been learning about medical cannabis, however, and follow the growing evidence for its use as medicine for several conditions. Some even have years of experience guiding their patients in its use.

If your doctor is unwilling to discuss medical cannabis with you, or feels uncomfortable giving advice because they don’t have sufficient information,you can ask for a referral to another physician who may have more medical cannabis experience. You could also visit a medical cannabis clinic if one exists in your community.

For tips on how to approach the conversation with your doctor, or how to find an authorizing doctor in your area, check out our newly updated brochure, “Medical Cannabis: A Guide to Access”, available on our website at

If you want suggestions for having more effective conversations with your doctor and other health care professionals about your health and health-related questions, check out