In the current environment the legalization of cannabis, and its use for medicinal purposes, has been a divisive topic of debate. However, as new evidence emerges regarding various therapeutic applications for cannabis, opinions regarding its use and legalization have shifted. Indeed, as of May 2021, thirty-six states permit the medicinal use of cannabis. Given the rapid pace at which cannabis science is growing, one can’t help but wonder the sentiment among physicians and student doctors regarding this topic. In October 2021, the results of a systematic review examining this question were published. In addition, the review sought to better understand this cohort’s level of knowledge regarding medical cannabis.
Specific research questions formed the basis for the review such as whether respondents believed in the legalization of cannabis. In addition, queries evaluated opinions regarding the therapeutic potential of cannabis and knowledge gaps related to the therapeutic applications of cannabis. Selected studies for the review were required to meet specific criteria such as using primary data collected by investigators directly, which answered one or more of the previously mentioned questions. In addition, studies were rigorously scrutinized for bias using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Assessment Tool. As such, none of the 40 studies selected for the final analysis were deemed a high risk for bias.
Results indicated that about half of respondents favored legalizing cannabis, and this sentiment increased from 1991 to 2019. In addition, medical professionals were more strongly in favor of legalizing medical cannabis than medical students. Conversely, medical students were more in favor of legalization of cannabis for recreational use than medical professionals. Studies also revealed a pervasive desire among medical professionals and medical students for more education related to medical cannabis.
Although this review was subject to some limitations, such as variability between studies and over-representation of medical professionals in selected studies, its implications are far-reaching. Evidence-based educational standards should be adopted to help streamline the safe integration of medical cannabis into standard clinical practice and reduce the potential for misinformation to influence clinical decision-making. Such standardization would also be helpful when it comes to collecting reliable data for research purposes. As the administration of medical cannabis becomes more common, it is also essential that those who administer it are well versed in the potential risks, such as addiction and dependence.