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University of Michigan, Om of Medicine conducting joint cannabis study

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

ANN ARBOR – University of Michigan researcher Daniel Kruger has partnered with cannabis provisioning center Om of Medicine to conduct a nationwide study assessing the patient-doctor relationship with regard to cannabis use and people's experience using medical marijuana.

Kruger, an academic researcher with two decades of experience in the public health field, is relatively new to cannabis. His frustration with the abstinence-only stance public health takes on cannabis led him to pursue studies on the topic.

"A few years ago, I realized that I had to do something about this because the field is sitting there in the era of prohibition and public health is (standing in its way)," said Kruger. "If public health is like a broken record of 'marijuana is bad' and then all of a sudden the policy changes and it's legal … it's a big deal."

Kruger argues that there is a gap between people who use marijuana for medical purposes and the health care system, and that more research is needed on the topic. Evan Litinas, chief medical officer at Om of Medicine, echoed these concerns.

"We're looking at the relationship between physicians and patients when it comes to cannabis," said Litinas. "Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of the information right now about that. What we do know is because of the legality, because of the Schedule 1, a lot of physicians are not able to talk to their patients and that discourse doesn't happen. By law, they cannot talk about it.

"As cannabis progresses and becomes legal, it doesn't matter what level of health care you are, you as a physician are going to have this conversation. As health care professionals, we have to be educated, we have to know how to empower our patients to find wellness."

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This doctor-patient disconnect is something that staff at Om of Medicine encounter daily.

"A lot of patients will come in and either tell us that their doctors don't know about their cannabis use, or that they disapprove of it, and they have tons of questions and don't feel like they have any guidance at all," explained community outreach coordinator at Om, Lisa Conine.

The Institutional Review Board-approved study is the third study Om of Medicine is conducting with Kruger, whose research is survey-based. 

Participants are asked about their daily regimen, dosing, which products they use, what sort of relationship they have with their primary care doctor and more.

"I've designed it to get as much information as possible without putting the most burden on people," said Kruger. "They can quickly navigate through the topics and it's not cumbersome or difficult to follow."

The survey can be filled out by anyone age 18 or older with a valid medical marijuana card.

To fill out the survey, click here.

Conine sees survey-based studies as an easy way for dispensaries to gather information and increase data sets on cannabis use.

"We really see doing this type of survey-based research as a very easy way for all dispensaries around the country to gather the data that's walking through their doors every single day," said Conine.

"It's a wasted opportunity and a lot of them haven't been doing this. It's really not as complicated as it may seem. All you have to do is find is one professor or one research Ph.D. student at a university that's willing to take this on -- that's really all it takes."

Kruger said the group plans to release a report of its findings and hopes to publish them in scientific journals in an effort to advance medical cannabis and help effect policy change.

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