The Clinical Conundrum of Cannabis: Current Practices and Recommendations for Transplant Clinicians: An Opinion of the Immunology/Transplantation PRN of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy

Transplantation. 2021 Feb 1;105(2):291-299. doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000003309.


Cannabis, or marijuana, comprises many compounds with varying effects. It has become a treatment option for chronic diseases and debilitating symptoms, and evidence suggests that it has immunomodulatory and antiinflammatory properties. Transplant centers are more frequently facing issues about cannabis, as indications and legalization expand. As of February 2020, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, and 14 have legalized recreational cannabis. Moreover, 8 states have passed legislation prohibiting the denial of transplant listing solely based on cannabis use. Studies demonstrate the potential for significant pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic interactions between cannabis and immunosuppression. Additionally, safety concerns include increased risk of myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, tachyarrhythmias, malignancy, neurocognitive deficits, psychosis, other neuropsychiatric disorders, cannabis use disorder, respiratory symptoms, and infection. A recent retrospective database study found a negative association between documented cannabis use disorder and graft survival, but little additional evidence exists evaluating this relationship. In the absence of robust clinical data, transplant centers need a clear, reasoned, and systematic approach to cannabis. The results of our national survey, unfortunately, found little consensus among institutions. As both recreational and medicinal cannabis become more ubiquitous nationwide, transplant centers will need to develop comprehensive policies to address its use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Marijuana Abuse / complications*
  • Marijuana Abuse / immunology
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / immunology
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medical Marijuana / adverse effects*
  • Organ Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Organ Transplantation* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Policy Making
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Medical Marijuana