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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Online Learning Provides Medical Marijuana Education for D.C. Doctors and Patients

Feb 29, 2016 04:13PM
by Deb McMahon, Ph.D. and Director of The Medical Cannabis Institute
The number of patients who have signed up for Washington, D.C.’s medical marijuana program has skyrocketed since medical marijuana was legalized in 2010. As of January 2016, according to the D.C. Department of Health (DOH), there were over 3,500 patients registered in the D.C. medical marijuana program, a 1,000 percent increase from May 2014.

But yet, according to the same DOH report, only 245 physicians have requested access to the program. So it’s quite possible that a patient’s doctor isn’t part of the system and, thus, cannot recommend medical cannabis as a treatment.

It is a phenomenon that is happening not only in Washington, D.C., but across the country, as more and more states legalize medical marijuana. The District joins 23 states with medical marijuana laws, and more are expected to be passed in 2016. But even as legalization marches across the United States, education is simply not keeping pace.

When a patient needs a prescription for traditional medicine, they look to their doctor for advice, insight and guidance about treatment options and regimens. But when a patient needs a recommendation for medical cannabis, it’s becoming clear that many physicians simply do not have the answers their patients need when it comes to medical marijuana treatment options.

The biggest challenge for physicians is a lack of fundamental knowledge about the physiologic system related to medical cannabis—the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells. Obviously, it’s an extremely important system and has been dubbed by leading doctor Dustin Sulak, DO, of and member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, as “the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.”

However, because this system has not been widely understood, it is not covered in most medical school programs. As a result, many doctors—and consequently their patients—are left in the dark about the ECS. It’s hard to imagine a doctor graduating from medical school without completing coursework on the nervous system. The ECS is equally important, but is unfortunately missing from most modern-day med school programs. Luckily, there are a growing number of ways physicians, patients and caregivers can bridge the education gap when it comes to medical cannabis. Online programs like The Medical Cannabis Institute (TMCI) are evidence-based, efficient, affordable and effective for basic and clinical training.

TMCI is an eLearning website with courses to help educate patients and their doctors about the science and clinical data behind medical cannabis. TMCI content is developed with experts in medical cannabis research and education.

While most courses are approved for CME credit, which is a great benefit to physicians, the courses are also available for patients and caregivers. The online classes cover everything from the basics of the ECS to specific cannabis treatments for pain, cancer and other diseases.

Deb McMahon, Ph.D. is the Director of The Medical Cannabis Institute. To learn more about TMCI or to take a course, visit


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