This winter, Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at UCSF, hosted an optional seminar about the pharmacology of cannabis for medical students. After explaining how cannabinoid receptors were among the most important in the brain, and how cannabis interacted with them, he paused and asked a simple question.
“How many of you learned about that in med school?”
Not a single hand went up.
“If physicians aren’t learning about the most densely populated receptors in the brain, because it has something to do with cannabis,” he later mused, “how they are ever going to prescribe it as medicine?"
Medical cannabis patients commonly report that their primary care physician doesn’t know about and therefore cannot recommend cannabis. That lack of knowledge is a growing problem in the world of medicine and something that's become increasingly untenable.
However, physicians and other health practitioners — as well as patients — may be surprised to learn multiple options exist when it comes to learning about the therapeutic botanical. Thanks to increased knowledge and medical acceptance, more opportunities than ever now exist for medical professionals to learn about cannabis while also satisfying their annual licensing requirement for continuing medical education.
Opportunities to study cannabis and get Continuing Medical Education credits have sprung up both online and in larger and smaller-scale medical conferences.
John and Corinne Malanca, co-owners of United Patients Group -- a San Rafael, CA. company with 12 employees that produces CME courses at colleges since 2011 -- recently partnered with California Northstate University College of Medicine to deliver first-ever CME courses at the school this Winter. UPG does a conference every year at Dominican University, and was teaching health care workers at Sonoma State University on March 11.
United Patients Group started after a doctor gave Corinne's dad two weeks to live due to brain cancer and wasting. When John asked about medical marijuana, the oncologist said "I know nothing about it , but go ahead."
"[Doctors] should not have to say that," said John.
Cannabis is a widely used appetite stimulant.
"There was no guidance," he said. It was total trial and error and we didn't have any error."
Corrine's dad just had his 9th scan and his cancer is gone.“For me I was the epitome of a naysayer -- 'Don't even talk to me about cannabis.' I would roll my eyes," said Corinne. "You couldn't have paid me to read anything, I was, 'No.' And then of course thrown into because of my dad, I was forced to read the science, because it meant something to me and there's no way I could be a naysayer anymore."
Doctors aren't fulfilling their Hippocratic oath, the Malancas said. "Absolutely there is a unmet treatment need and it's filtered down by the education of the physicians. We believe if doctors got educated a lot of that would change.”
Below is a list for nurses and physicians, from accredited continuing education institutions, that advance the still-burgeoning field of medical cannabis:
ONLINE MEDICAL MARIJUANA COURSES
- The Answer Page -- Launched in 1998, The Answer Page is an elder statesman of online medical education. The site offers a bounty of information on all kinds of topics. But specifically, it offers up to 22.5 CME credits ($399) for its medical marijuana courses. The classes look at medical information and background, as well as legal, social and political issues associated with medical cannabis. They also give users the option to take either a multiple-choice quiz or fill out a crossword puzzle to test their knowledge of the coursework.
- TMCI Global -- The Medical Cannabis Institute offers a robust package of continuing education courses for both doctors and nurses. For doctors, they offer a comprehensive 13 CME-credit course that looks at the history of cannabis’ use in a medical environment as well the latest research and methods for clinical use ($399). For nurses, they offer an eight CNE-credit course focusing on the endocannabinoid system, delivery and dosage, medical risks and potential legal implications associated with cannabis treatment ($369). They also offer 1.25-credit course on the endocannabinoid system ($39.99), as well as other, uncredited informational courses.
- NetCE -- NetCE is another general site for continuing education credits. Its medical marijuana course is worth five CME-credits, and covers the history, pharmacology and safety of the drug. At $19, it’s considerably less expensive than other CME options. It’s coursework is bare-bones and can be viewed in its entirety, without credit, by anyone who visits.
- University of Vermont -- Through an online portal, the University of Vermont offers a number continuing education courses for $100 per credit hour. Its medical cannabis course — which can be taken as a whole, or in parts — covers the history of cannabis and the latest research on its clinical efficacy.
- Ohio State University -- The OSU Medical Center offers a one CME credit on-demand “marijuana” webinar ($25). Unlike its peers above, the seminar focuses far more on cannabis dependence and misuse, rather than its pharmacological value. This course may be appropriate for medical professionals interested in understanding marijuana in the paradigm of substance abuse.
WHERE TO TAKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA CMEs IN-PERSON
- Medical Cannabis: A Clinical Focus -- United Patients Group produces a Baltimore education event just in time for the state's new medical cannabis program. The two-day conference is open to the public and can be worth 13 CME / CE / ACPE contact hours. Speakers cover: pain, opiates and cannabis; hospice and palliative care, and many other topics. [Maritime Conference Center; Linthicum Heights, MD.; June 2-3, 2017; $300/$375 with CMEs]
- CannMed 2017 -- After resounding success last spring, CannMed is back at Harvard for its second annual personalized cannabinoid medical conference. The conference features the best and brightest in the field of cannabis research including Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the Israeli doctor credited with isolating THC in the 1960s. The conference itself, however, does not satisfy CME credit requirements, though its registration fee includes a one-year subscription to The Answer Page. [Harvard Medical School; Cambridge, MA.; April 9-11, 2017; Rates: $200-$899]
- World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo -- The World Medical Cannabis Conference and Expo is sure to be another blockbuster event for the the medical cannabis industry. The line-up will include presentations from prominent medical, legal and business figures, as well as talks from former NFL players, including former All-Pro running back Ricky Williams. As part expo, the event will feature rows of product booths and a series of formal networking events. For those in need of CME credit, the conference will offer a one-year subscription to The Answer Page to attendees of a three-hour medical cannabis overview on Saturday, April 22. [David L. Lawrence Convention Center; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; April 21-22, 2017; Rates: $10-$698]
- National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics -- The annual event from Patients Out of Time will alight in Berkeley this year, providing three full days of lectures from leading physicians and researchers about cutting-edge clinical and academic cannabis research. The event will also feature a benefit dinner, which is not included in the conference tuition fee. CME credits are available. [DoubleTree Hotel; Berkeley, CA; May 18-20, 2017; Rates: $275-$500]
- CSPM&R Annual Meeting -- The California Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation will host its annual meeting in Burlingame this year. The weekend is not dedicated cannabis, but on Sunday, April 23, it will feature an hour-long medical cannabis lecture from renowned doctor Frank Lucido of Berkeley. The event can be worth up to 15 CME credits. [San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront Hotel; Burlingame, California; April 21-23, 2017; Rate: $25-$495]
- NAMDRC Annual Conference -- This medical conference for respiratory experts will feature a one-hour lecture from University of Colorado pulmonologist Dr. Ivor Douglas. His lecture will focus on respiratory illness in the wake of marijuana legalization. [The Meritage Resort; Napa, Calif.; March 23-25; Rate: $400]