Khanh Bui, BS, Brooke Worster, MD, Jennie Ryan, PhD, CPNP-AC, Swechhya Pant, BA, and Erin L. Kelly, PhD


August 10, 2023


Background: Physicians’ ability to guide their patients on the use of medical cannabis can vary widely and is often shaped by their training, experiences, and the regulations and policies of their state. The goal of this qualitative study is to understand how prepared physicians are to certify and advise their patients to use medical cannabis. A secondary goal is to explore how physicians integrate certification into their clinical practices, and what factors shape their decisions and behaviors around certification.

Method: Using semi-structured interviews with 24 physicians authorized to certify patients to use medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, a state with a medical access only program, we explored how physi- cians are trained and set up their practices. Interviews were analyzed using a blend of directed and conventional, and summative content analysis.

Results: Three main themes emerged from the data around training, system-level factors, and prac- tice-level factors that shaped how physicians are trained and practice medical cannabis certification. Although participants were largely satisfied with their CME training, they noted areas for improvement and a need for more high-quality research. Participants also noted system-level factors that prohibited treating cannabis as a traditional medical therapy, including communication barriers between physi- cians and dispensaries and confusion about insurance coverage for certification exams.

Conclusion: Physicians require additional training to improve the operation of the medical cannabis program in Pennsylvania. Participants suggested that the program could be improved by reducing com- munication barriers between them, their patients, and the dispensaries around the product purchase, selection, use, and effectiveness of medical cannabis. ( J Am Board Fam Med 2023;36:670–681.)

DOI: 10.3122/jabfm.2022.220304R1


Bui, K., Worster, B., Ryan, J., Pant, S., & Kelly, E. L. (2023). Physicians’ perspectives on their training for and role within Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 36(4), 670-681.