If there is any term that defines the modern cannabis industry, the term would undoubtedly be “change.” This applies to the internal workings of business and policy, as well as the perceived image of cannabis in the public eye. Looking to the medical field, legitimate scientific studies into the benefits of cannabis are still in their infancy. This notion, coupled with drug-war rhetoric that is still ingrained in the minds of many, has stimulated an air of skepticism among the medical community concerning the legitimacy of cannabis. Moreover, medical marijuana patients are often left confused about how they can talk to their doctors about cannabis use.

As widespread cannabis legalization has occurred across the US and Canada, we have seen outdated drug-war ideologies precariously juxtaposed against the dramatically shifting tides of a big business takeover in the industry. Consequently, even industry “insiders” are confused about the current state of the marketplace, as it is marked with contradictory motives, ideologies, and plans.

Among the tides of changing legislation, evolving viewpoints, and alarming contradictions, it’s easy to forget the legal cannabis industry was founded on the very real medical needs of marijuana patients. Unfortunately, these individuals are often left to fend for themselves in an environment where inconsistent “scientific studies” are touted as “fact” on a near daily basis. The prospect of asking a traditional doctor about cannabis use in such confusing times is an intimidating proposition. Even more so because degrees of legalization, as well as the roles doctors play in administering cannabis, vary so much in different marketplaces. Nonetheless, if you are seeking the advice of your doctor about medical marijuana use, there are a few steps that can be taken to ensure the encounter is as comfortable as possible.

Do Your Homework First

Because the industry is changing so rapidly, it can be quite confusing to understand the legality of cannabis or CBD in a specific marketplace at any given time. If you decide to inquire with your doctor about medical marijuana use, be sure you understand the legal standing of cannabis where you live. As different US states have different qualifying conditions for medical cannabis, study up on your specific locale. A visit to your doctor would be meaningless, as well as quite uncomfortable, if you attempt to get a prescription without meeting obvious minimal requirements.

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If interested in talking to your skeptical doctor about cannabis, it’s also a good idea to research their medical practice in more detail. It is quite possible that a more conservative doctor won’t even acknowledge cannabis as medicine. Conversely, maybe you will get lucky and find out your family practitioner is on the list of licensed medical cannabis doctors in your state. Either way, frontloading yourself on what sort of conversation to expect will make your conversation much more comfortable.

Present a Legitimate Medical Need

When you approach your doctor for a consultation on medical cannabis use, be sure you present a specific medical need. There is perhaps no surer way to raise suspicion with your doctor than requesting access to cannabis without presenting a known ailment. A great way to further your understanding of medical marijuana, as well as help with the overall progression of the industry, is to research your particular ailment and its relationship to specific cannabinoids. To illustrate, certain symptoms like chronic pain are more responsive to CBD, while others such as nausea can only be helped with THC.

Another word of caution about visiting a doctor has to do with mixing medications. If you are already prescribed pharmaceutical drugs for an ailment, mixing cannabis could be a bad idea. Since cannabis is just beginning to receive recognition in the eyes of mainstream medicine, any attempts at getting medical marijuana strictly “to get high” could be detrimental to this progress. Therefore, serious medical cannabis patients should look at cannabis as an alternative to invasive prescription medications, not as another avenue for recreational drug use. In the end, nothing will raise suspicions with a doctor as much as someone who attempts to abuse this new system and perpetuate the “stoner” stereotype.

Be Prepared to Discuss the Issue

Whether you are visiting a family doctor you have been using for decades, or you are in the market for a new practitioner, be prepared to discuss the medical marijuana issue. Bring factual information to the table that can be the basis for an objective dialogue. In the end, a well thought out argument could convince even the most conservative doctor to look beyond stigmas and give you sound medical advice.

Read also: Prescribing Cannabinoids: The Terpene Connection

While cannabis legalization has made incredible progress over the past 10 years, it is still federally illegal in the US. Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) continues to purport that cannabis is a Schedule I drug, meaning it has “no accepted medical use” and has a “high potential for abuse.” In Canada, the Canadian Medical Association is taking a fairly hard line on medical marijuana, waiting for more research before committing to endorsing it. Be prepared to back down from a disagreement with your doctor if they don’t see things your way concerning cannabis use. They may simply be protecting themselves from legal ramifications of recommending medical marijuana.

The cannabis industry is changing quickly and this volatility is creating confusion and frustration for both patients and doctors. At the base of this confusion are vast discrepancies in what different parties consider facts — the industry is inundated with claims about cannabis that aren’t backed by real scientific research. Medical patients have largely had to decide for themselves whether or not cannabis works for them. Looking to the future, we can only hope that as the industry grows more sophisticated, better standards on things like testing, labeling, and dosing will make the doctor-patient relationship more functional. Yet, these evolutions are still dependent on acceptance by the federal government, as this acknowledgement is the most direct way to control and professionalize the industry, and, in turn, convince skeptical doctors that cannabis is a real medicine.