From the Journals

Marijuana: Most oncologists are having the conversation


Key clinical point: The majority of medical oncologists discuss medical marijuana use with their patients, though few feel knowledgeable on the subject.

Major finding: Nearly 80% of medical oncologists have discussed medical marijuana use with their patients, but only 29.4% of those surveyed felt sufficiently knowledgeable.

Study details: Survey of 237 medical oncologists.

Disclosures: No funding was declared. Two authors declared royalties and honoraria from medical publishing and a research institute, and one declared fees for expert testimony.

Source: Braun I et al. J Clin Oncol. 2018 May 10. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1221.



The vast majority of oncologists discuss medical marijuana use with their patients, and around one-half recommend it to patients, yet many also say they do not feel equipped to make clinical recommendations on its use, new research has found.

A survey on medical marijuana was mailed to a nationally-representative, random sample of 400 medical oncologists and had a response rate of 63%; results from the 237 responders revealed that 79.8% had discussed medical marijuana use with patients or their families and 45.9% had recommended medical marijuana for cancer-related issues to at least one patient in the previous year.

Oncologists in the western United States were significantly more likely to recommend medical marijuana use, compared with those in the south of the country (84.2% vs. 34.7%, respectively; P less than .001), Ilana M. Braun, MD, and her associates reported in Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Doctors who practiced outside a hospital setting were also significantly more likely to recommend medical marijuana to their patients, as were medical oncologists with higher practice volumes.

Among the oncologists who reported discussing medical marijuana use with patients, 78% said these conversations were more likely to be initiated by the patient and their family than by the oncologist themselves.

However only 29.4% of oncologists surveyed said they felt “sufficiently knowledgeable” to make recommendations to patients about medical marijuana. Even among those who said they had recommended medical marijuana to a patient in the past year, 56.2% said they didn’t feel they had enough knowledge to make a recommendation.

Overall, oncologists had mixed views about medical marijuana. About one-third viewed it as equal to or more effective than standard pain treatments, one-third viewed it as less effective, and one-third said they did not know. However two-thirds viewed medical marijuana as a useful adjunct to standard pain therapies.

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