About medical cannabis
Cannabis, derived from the plant Cannabis Sativa, contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) as its main active ingredients. THC is the primary psychoactive component with analgesics effects, while CBD is a non-psychoactive component with anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antipsychotic properties.
Cannabis Regulations allow patients access to a reasonable amount of cannabis for medical purposes when prescribed by an authorized healthcare practitioner.
Physicians are not obligated to authorize cannabis for medical purposes and should factor in both their knowledge of the patient and recognized, evidence-based guidelines when deciding whether to approve medical cannabis therapy for a patient.
Register as a medical cannabis authorizer
Physicians who choose to authorize cannabis for medical purposes must register with CPSA. This information is not shared with the public.
Cannabis authorization FAQsAll FAQs
I am a primary care physician looking to authorize medical cannabis use for my patient, do I need to meet specific education and experiential requirements?
Physicians wishing to authorize medical cannabis for a patient must register with CPSA as a cannabis authorizer. This can be done via expressing interest to the Cannabis for Medical Purposes program at CPSA through an email or the online form on this page. There are no educational or experiential pre-requisites.
If I am not the primary care physician for the patient, should I approve medical cannabis use for them?
The use of medical cannabis is no different than any other therapy that may be considered as part of a patient’s overall care and deserves the same care and attention as any other diagnostic or management decision. The family physician is often (usually) in the best position to provide comprehensive care for their patients, as s/he is aware of the patient’s medical conditions and can counsel the patient about the relative risks and benefits of a proposed therapeutic decision. If other specialists are considering authorizing cannabis, the same considerations apply.
My patient would like medical cannabis for their use but I do not believe the therapy will help with their condition. Am I obligated to approve medical cannabis for patients upon request?
Physicians are not obligated to authorize cannabis for medical purposes. Physicians must use their knowledge of the patient and evidence-based guidelines to decide whether or not to use (or approve) any therapy for a patient, recognizing that the best interest of the patient is paramount.
What are physician responsibilities when working in a cannabis clinic?
When physicians are employed by cannabis clinics merely to act as “authorizers”, the physician-patient relationship can be undermined. Physicians who work in cannabis clinics must comply with the standards of practice: Cannabis for Medical Purposes, Responsibility for a Medical Practice, Advertising, Patient Record Retention and Conflict of Interest and should be aware of their responsibilities before entering into this type of arrangement.
Individual physicians are responsible for:
- processes used to interview and counsel patients;
- advertising about the indications for medical cannabis;
- information provided about the products;
- clinic fees for providing services; and
- the accurate and secure documentation of the patient record.
If a physician cannot influence the factors above to comply with the standards of practice, s/he should not practice in this clinical setting.
What are the expectations for follow-up for my patients on medical cannabis?
Depending on the patient situation, medical history and clinical condition, the appropriate follow-up interval may vary from patient to patient. It is expected that physicians will assess risks for development of a cannabis use disorder at baseline and continue to monitor for this and safety of ongoing medical cannabis use periodically, at least once every six months. Refer to CPSA’s Cannabis for medical purposes standard of practice and related Advice document for more information.
Medical cannabis resourcesAll Resources
Knowing Your Limits with Cannabis: A Practical Guide to Assessing Your Cannabis UseCanadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) Click to view files
Medical Document for Authorizing Medical CannabisHealth Canada Click to view files
Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis & Cannabis Use and DrivingClick to view files
Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis & Maternal Cannabis Use During PregnancyClick to view files
Simplified Guideline for Prescribing Medical Cannabinoids in Primary CareClick to view files
Implications of Cannabis Legalization on Youth and Young AdultsCanadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) Click to view files
ACMPR Daily Amount Fact Sheet (Dosage)Health Canada Click to view files
Cannabis for Medical Purposes (Health Canada)Health Canada Click to view files
Information for Health Care Professionals: Cannabis and the cannabinoidsHealth Canada Click to view files
Accessing Cannabis for Medical PurposesHealth Canada Click to view files
Practical Considerations in Medical Cannabis Administration and DosingClick to view files
Clinical Practice Guidelines for Cannabis and Cannabinoid-Based Medicines in the Management of Chronic Pain and Co-Occurring ConditionsClick to view files
Continuing Medical Education coursesAll Resources
Contact us for more information on cannabis for medical purposes
Toll-free: 1-800-561-3899 Ext. 4972 (in Canada)