Medical cannabis: An oxymoron? Physicians’ perceptions of medical cannabis

Yuval Zolotov, Simon Vulfsons, Dana Zarhin, Sharon Sznitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Medical cannabis policies are changing in many places around the world, and physicians play a major role in the implementation of these policies. The aim of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of physicians’ views on medical cannabis and its possible integration into their clinic, as well as to identify potential underlying factors that influence these perceptions. Methods: Qualitative narrative analysis of in-depth interviews with twenty-four Israeli physicians from three specialties (pain medicine, oncology and family medicine). Findings: Physicians disclosed contrasting narratives of cannabis, presenting it as both a medicine and a non-medicine. These divergent positions co-existed and were intertwined in physicians’ accounts. When presenting cannabis as a non-medicine, physicians drew on conventional medicine and prohibition as narrative environments. They emphasized the incongruence of cannabis with standards of biomedicine and presented cannabis as an addictive drug of abuse. In contrast, physicians drew upon unconventional medicine and palliative care as narrative environments while presenting cannabis as a medicine. In this narrative, physicians emphasized positive hands-on experiences with cannabis, and pointed to the limits of conventional medicine. Conclusion: Physicians did not have a consolidated perspective as to whether cannabis is a medicine or not, but rather struggled with this question. The dualistic narratives of cannabis reflect the lack of a dominant narrative environment that supports the integration of cannabis into medical practice. This may in turn indicate barriers to the implementation of medical cannabis policies. An awareness of physicians’ views and the different levels of their willingness to implement medical cannabis policies is essential for policy developments in this evolving field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-10
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Volume57
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Medical cannabis policies
  • Narrative of medical cannabis
  • Physicians’ perceptions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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