The topic of cannabis can be a fraught one for medical doctors. Many say they lack education, experience, and data needed to make informed decisions about it in regard to their patents and the drug. This is also true of complementary and alternative medicines, as they try to find their place amidst the constant promises and high expectations that seem to sprout up around cannabis.
While the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes did have a profound impact on the Canadian legal system, the ways that medical cannabis can be supplied remained largely unchanged. According to a document released from the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, only medical doctors and nurse practitioners are capable of issuing an authorization — medical cannabis is not prescribed, a “medical document” is issued.
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Naturopaths are not allowed by law to issue these documents, and even making a recommendation can be legally perilous, but what they are allowed to do, according to the CNO, is provide of guidance. The advice must be “neutral, unbiased” and may include general information on topics like various types and strains; potency, amount, and frequency of use; and potential risks and benefits.
They are also not allowed to advise the use of non-medical cannabis for health purposes including for the treatment and management of health conditions, for therapeutic purposes, recommend dosages, strain types, or to have cannabis included as a part of their professional practice.
Lachlan Crawford is a naturopathic practitioner working at Toronto’s Darou Wellness. She tells Grow during an interview that she would never recommend a patient start taking cannabis, but thinks it can be used by those who have already found personal success as a bridge to reach better habits.
“Let’s say they’re really struggling with depression and it’s largely because they can’t sleep or anxiety is keeping them up at night and CBD helps them to sleep at night,” she said. “CBD could be a way someone personally fills a need, while we work on sleep hygiene and regulating your catecholamines and regulating your circadian rhythm so that we can eventually wean you off of the weed so that you can actually just have a natural healthy sleep system.”
Crawford, who specializes in mental health, believes that isolates like CBD have the potential to offer temporary relief, but like most natural supplements shouldn’t be thought of as a permanent solution, echoing many medical doctors and their concerns about the longterm health implications of prolonged use.
“We haven’t studied this well enough at all to understand the actual effects of how it impacts every system in the body. We know that. Sure, it impacts your appetite and it decreases pain, but what is it doing to your immune system? What is it doing to your reproductive system? What is it doing to your mental health in the long run.”
Instead, Crawford thinks, when it comes to general wellness, cannabis should be thought of a means to an end. “Eventually they can kind of come off of the CBD and just have those natural healthy habits built-in,” she says.
Naturopathic practitioners are not allowed by law to recommend or prescribe medical or recreational cannabis.