Connecting the Dots with Nikki Lawley: discussing medical cannabis with your doctor

nikki lawley discussing medical cannabis with doctors

As more people seek out medical marijuana, it can be difficult to know how to discuss the choice with healthcare professionals. It’s something I understand far too well.

The stigma surrounding cannabis as medicine is still real in the Western medical system. When I first shared I was using cannabis with the multitude of doctors I was seeing for my brain injury, there was not one that was sympathetic or supportive. I was actually called a drug seeker and told that all pain meds should be prescribed with extreme caution due to the potential for abuse. 

I was anything but a drug seeker. 

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I shared my success with cannabis in managing my symptoms. I would actually go to Canada and medicate and began to learn about cannabis as medicine there, but I could not bring the medicine home to New York State. I would travel to Canada every other week for several days, and my quality of life improved significantly. 

I would share this experience, and I was met with extremely skeptical doctors. I was told, “If you use THC products, you are just looking to get high.” I was told if I smoked cannabis, it was not medicinal. I finally had found hope, but the medical system did not support my newfound medicine.

As a former nurse, there were many things I wish I had known before starting my own medical cannabis journey. I wish I had learned about the endocannabinoid system in nursing school and its effects on all systems of our body. I wish I had an understanding of how cannabis helped in a scientific way so I could explain to the doctors in a way that was science-based. 

I wish I had understood the importance of knowing what I was consuming and had begun to journal the experience with the different products I tried. I wish I had known about what the difference was between various forms of cannabis and how long the effects last, along with how to consume and how to titrate the dosing to get the medical benefits without feeling too medicated.

I’m often asked by new patients if they should discuss their cannabis consumption with their medical teams—especially in prohibition states. This is a tricky one for me because I was open and honest with my doctors, and it had completely negative consequences. 

I believe in my experience as a patient and a nurse, the healthcare team needs to be involved in all aspects of one’s health and well-being—however, I saw firsthand how I was dismissed and called a drug seeker. I encourage everyone to be their own advocate and learn as much as they can about their health condition and treatment options. 

I encourage everyone to do the research and due diligence, so you feel comfortable talking to your health care provider. The medical community has a LONG way to go before they understand and accept cannabis as medicine. If you’re fortunate to live in a legal medical state and can get guidance from other patients and support groups, I highly recommend this.

At the end of the day, the healthcare community NEEDS education. They need to hear patient success stories and understand this is not some fad! Cannabis is medicine. I believe it is reckless for the healthcare community not to have to take continuing education classes on cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. It should not be an option. 

To change the way doctors understand cannabis as medicine, an official body must step in to make it mandatory, and it should be part of every medical school/nursing school curriculum. The only way this is going to happen is to reschedule or de-schedule cannabis at the federal level. Until that happens, the research is focused on only the harm rather than the benefits of cannabis. 

It’s important to share all our stories. It’s important to come out of the cannabis closet and speak your truth so others can feel empowered and stand alongside you to fight for what is right. So many lives can be changed and improved by using cannabis. We just have to be willing to talk about it.


This article was submitted by a guest contributor to GreenState. The statements within do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GreenState, Hearst, or its subsidiaries. The author is solely responsible for the content.


nikki lawley

Nikki Lawley is a patient advocate, speaker, and founder of Nikki and the Plant. She personally discovered cannabis as medicine after suffering a life-changing injury while working as a pediatric nurse. Nikki resides in Buffalo, NY.