Medicinal Cannabis: A Survey Among Health Care Providers in Washington State

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2017 Feb;34(1):85-91. doi: 10.1177/1049909115604669. Epub 2016 Jul 11.


Introduction: Washington State allows marijuana use for medical (since 1998) and recreational (since 2012) purposes. The benefits of medicinal cannabis (MC) can be maximized if clinicians educate patients about dosing, routes of administration, side effects, and plant composition. However, little is known about clinicians' knowledge and practices in Washington State.

Methods: An anonymous online survey assessed providers' MC knowledge, beliefs, clinical practices, and training needs. The survey was disseminated through health care providers' professional organizations in Washington State. Descriptive analysis compared providers who had and had not authorized MC for patients. Survey results informed the approach and content of an online training on best clinical practices of MC.

Results: Four hundred ninety-four health care providers responded to the survey. Approximately two-third were women, aged 30 to 60 years, and working in family or internal medicine. More than half of the respondents were legally allowed to write MC authorizations per Washington State law, and 27% of those had issued written MC authorizations. Overall, respondents reported low knowledge and comfort level related to recommending MC. Respondents rated MC knowledge as important and supported inclusion of MC training in medical/health provider curriculum. Most Washington State providers have not received education on scientific basis of MC or training on best clinical practices of MC. Clinicians who had issued MC authorizations were more likely to have received MC training than those who had not issued MC authorization.

Discussion: The potential of MCs to benefit some patients is hindered by the lack of comfort of clinicians to recommend it. Training opportunities are badly needed to address these issues.

Keywords: chronic pain; medical education; medical marijuana; medicinal cannabis; palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Education, Medical
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Washington


  • Medical Marijuana