A new study suggests many workers in US medical cannabis dispensaries may not be getting the education they need to provide good advice to patients.
Many cancer patients are turning to cannabis to help manage their symptoms. Oncology teams don’t appear to be providing much guidance on its use, so these patients are often turning to cannabis dispensary staff for advice.
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suggest this may not be such a good thing given the level of on-the-job training at dispensaries is uneven.
A national survey of oncologists determined that while 80% discussed medical cannabis clinically – but often only because of probing on the part of patients and families – only 30% felt qualified to issue clinical recommendations
While dispensary personnel interviewed for the study were passionate about their work and providing solid advice, even educating themselves when away from the store under their own steam and paying for courses, it appears dispensaries often base their hiring decisions more on candidate’s abilities to sell rather than their knowledge of using cannabis therapeutically.
Medical cannabis in the USA is big business – growing into a $17.5 billion US dollars market nationally. The dollar signs may be getting in the way of providing appropriate patient care.
Many of the dispensary workers interviewed said on-the-job training with regard to cannabis therapeutics was “unstandardized and weak”. Nearly half called for quality, standardized cannabis therapeutics training for dispensary personnel.
“Our study opens the door to discussing that we as clinicians may not be able to completely defer responsibility for advising patients to the dispensaries,” says the study’s first author, Ilana Braun, MD. “We need to figure out ways to address this issue.”
Study co-author Manan Nayak, PhD said part of the problem was oncologists and dispensary personnel were working in “silos”.
“There needs to be a way to close the loop between the dispensary and the clinical team.”
This was a small study based on in-depth interviews with 26 workers at cannabis dispensaries in 13 states. If a larger, quantitative study run nationally returned the same results, the authors say this would obligate the medical community to ensure patients have reliable sources of medical cannabis guidance.
The study has been published in the journal JCO Oncology Practice.