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Before you head to your friendly, neighborhood budtender for medical marijuana advice, take note: According to a small but telling new study conducted by Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, “only 55% of the 55 dispensary workers they surveyed received any kind of formal training for their jobs, and only 20% had been trained on the health benefits of cannabis.”

While dispensary personnel can be helpful in determining what products may be best suited to meet the needs of adult cannabis users, medical marijuana patients living with one or more health conditions and potential medication interactions should consider consulting with a cannabis-trained healthcare professional.

Bottom line: the new study found that dispensary workers, or so-called budtenders, are, in most cases, woefully under and improperly trained to dispense medical advice. The study concluded that some recommendations were simply wrong or inappropriate when asked for advice about medical conditions. Compare these low-wage earners to personnel in health food stores who frequently provide inaccurate nutrition advice.

According to LiveScience, this new study found that “35 percent of the dispensary staff members had received customer service training; 26 percent had received business training; 20 percent, medical training; and 13 percent, scientific training. Twenty percent had received some other type training that might have involved learning about cannabis. Yet 94 percent of the study participants said that they had provided advice to customers. That included recommending which marijuana strains customers should use and advising customers on the benefits of marijuana for particular symptoms.

The staff members in the study said that the most common symptoms reported by their customers were chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. Of all staff members in the study, 62 percent said that they always or often checked in or followed up with their customers after their purchases, to ask about their health conditions, according to the study, published Dec. 1 in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Overall, the staff members were more likely to recommend marijuana with an equal ratio of THC to CBD for people with anxiety, PTSD or trauma and Crohn’s disease, rather than recommending marijuana that is high in THC, the researchers found. This is in line with what experts recommend, the researchers said.

Staff members were also more likely to recommend marijuana with high levels of CBD and equal ratios of CBD to THC for customers with ALS, epilepsy and muscle spasms, rather than recommending marijuana high in THC. For people with epilepsy and the other conditions, this recommendation is also in line with research suggesting that CBD may indeed benefit patients.

However, some staff members made recommendations that were not in line with what is thought to be effective for a given condition, the researchers said. For example, 10 percent of staff members said they had recommended marijuana with high levels of CBD for people who wanted to increase their appetite, but research has shown that it is THC, and not CBD, that may help patients increase appetite, the researchers said.”

The study surveyed workers in Colorado, California, Arizona, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine and included staff from both medical and non-medical dispensaries.

Does it matter that 13% of workers were recommending high-THC products to treat anxiety and another 7% recommended THC instead of CBD to treat epilepsy? Does it matter that well-meaning, but uneducated staff are providing health-related recommendations without the proper training or knowledge? Of course, it matters!

And that’s why we are in complete agreement with the Nancy Haug, study author and professor of addiction medicine at Palo Alto University in California when she says her finding underscores the need for dispensaries to properly train their staff members, and that the training should be based on current scientific literature involving marijuana.

Next question: where can dispensary staff, holistic practitioners, caregivers, patients, and the canna curious find comprehensive, science-based cannabis information? Enter the Holistic Cannabis Academy.

The Holistic Cannabis Academy is an education, training, and mentoring program founded by two registered dietitian nutritionists who have always been ahead of the curve. First, in food and nutrition communications before the field became saturated with media dietitians. Second, in culinary nutrition before the field was even invented. Third, in functional medicine, which remains an emerging area of practice. And now, in cannabis as medical marijuana leads the way in natural medicine.

To meet the demand for comprehensive medical cannabis education, the Academy is staffed with an esteemed, diverse faulty of knowledgeable and experienced leaders in the holistic cannabis world. Meet neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo, the researcher who developed the concept of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency and tone. Neuroscientist Michele Ross will wow you with her scientific review of both cannabis for mood disorders and for women’s health. Two clinicians who integrate cannabis therapeutics with functional medicine – Doctors Debbie Malka and Joe Cohen – will reveal their real-world clinical successes and challenges. These are just a few of the Academy’s 30-member faculty who are part of this ground-breaking holistic medical cannabis program.

The Holistic Cannabis Academy was created to help holistic health practitioners, caregivers, patients, dispensary professionals, and the canna-curious understand, learn, and confidently answer these and other critical questions:

What are primary cannabinoids in cannabis and what does the research show about their application in health and wellness? You’ll be amazed about what this ancient plant the therapeutic possibilities for improving symptoms and feeling better.

What is the endocannabinoid system and clinical endocannabinoid deficiency? It’s a foundational for improving understanding how cannabis can modulate health and wellness.

What questions should you ask for buying safe, quality cannabis products? Understand testing procedures and labeling is vital for savvy shopping recommendations.

How do the anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis help with chronic pain? Learn about the other conditions for which cannabis has been approved in various states.

Why use cannabis with other modalities such as nutrition, aromatherapy, yoga, acupuncture, breath work, chiropractic care, and meditation? Plain and simple – so-called complementary and alternative modalities can upregulate the impact of cannabis.

The Holistic Cannabis Academy

  • Offers compressive online medical cannabis training and education options for healthcare practitioners, caregivers + cannabis curious individuals
  • Allows you or your dispensary staff to begin on your timeline and complete in accordance with a schedule convenient to you
  • Provides an opportunity to earn a certificate of competency as a Holistic Cannabis Practitioner™ or Holistic Cannabis Coach
  • Delivers content vetted by both medical marijuana and functional medicine clinicians and researchers plus cannabis attorneys and growers
  • Provides a turnkey education program with a cannabis education toolkit that includes references, client handouts, and presentation materials

“The integrity of what we provide our students rests squarely on who we are – holistic-minded health practitioners, first and foremost, says integrative clinical nutritionist Laura Lagano, MS, RDN, CDN, co-founder of the Holistic Cannabis Academy. “While other cannabis education programs are available, many are produced by business people who have little or no hands-on patient experience. We are our target audience – health and wellness professionals committed to holistic healing.”

End the Knowledge Gap and Become Cannabis Competent!

If you or your staff are in search of reliable, up-to-date training in medical marijuana and the holistic use of cannabis to help address the needs and concerns of others seeking advice, learn more about the Holistic Cannabis Academy’s two online programs: the Practitioner Program and the Counselor Program.  Each are designed to offer you exactly what you need and the ongoing support you want. 

Photo by Alex Person on Unsplash