Currently, 37 states permit the use of medicinal cannabis. As a result, a growing number of cancer patients are turning to its use. But research suggests that doctors don’t feel completely competent to provide specific education about the practice, and many patients say they wind up turning to cannabis dispensary personnel as their chief source of information.

Researchers sought to learn more about the background and training of the personnel who work in cannabis dispensaries to gauge their preparation in cannabis therapeutics. Their findings were published in JCO Oncology Practice.

For this study, the researchers recruited 26 people who worked at cannabis dispensaries in 13 states using snowball sampling. They conducted phone interviews that lasted approximately 30 to 90 minutes with the dispensary personnel who served in managerial and client-facing roles.


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The participants provided mixed reviews of the quality of workplace cannabis therapeutics training. Many also noted that the trainings mandated for their state were poor quality and tended to focus on regulatory issues instead of the practice of dispensary work. Peer-to-peer education was frequently cited by many of the participants as the most common modality for on-the-job knowledge acquisition.

The researchers also found that sales acumen seemed to be a higher priority in hiring for dispensaries than cannabis therapeutics knowledge, resulting in inconsistent levels of cannabis knowledge among dispensary workers.

“An emergent theme in early interviews formally explored in later ones was a call for high-quality formalized cannabis therapeutics training,” explained the researchers, adding that some even expressed the desire for a certification program.

This suggests that oncology teams who rely on dispensary personnel to educate or advise patients about medicinal cannabis use are relying on a workforce that acknowledges it is not educated through standardized training. This raises a significant question: Should the medical establishment assume greater responsibility for advising cancer patients about the use of medicinal cannabis or should they rely on dispensary personnel to advise on its use?

The study was limited by its small sample size, which carries a risk for bias. The researchers suggested that a national survey with a larger number of participants could uncover additional insights about perceived gaps in cannabis therapeutics knowledge and training.

“Should our findings be supported by quantitative assessment, [medicinal cannabis] clinical guidelines may be necessary to amplify and standardize the oncology establishment’s approach to [medicinal cannabis] advising, and additional training opportunities in cannabis therapeutics targeting oncology providers and cannabis dispensary personnel may be warranted,” the researchers concluded.

Disclosures: Some authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.

Reference

Braun IM, Nayak MM, Roberts JE, et al. Backgrounds and trainings in cannabis therapeutics of dispensary personnel. JCO Oncol Pract. Published online August 15, 2022. doi:10.1200/OP.22.00129