Many people are curious to know whether they can use cannabis to help manage their chronic health conditions since it is used for a wide variety of conditions. Most cannabis studies are in the “early” stage because it takes many years for researchers to gain approvals, secure funding for studies, and pass pre-clinical trials before a clinical trial involving humans can take place (Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart, n.d.). The good news is the body of evidence is growing each year, and the medical community already recognizes cannabis as helpful for managing a wide range of physical and mental symptoms (Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart, n.d.). Learn more about the history of cannabis!

Common medical reasons people use medical cannabis include:

This list is not exhaustive and there are many more health conditions that may be managed with cannabis treatment. If you are already experimenting with cannabis and seeing some benefits for your health condition, discussing this with a cannabis-trained healthcare provider will help guide you in the right direction.

The Canadian Cannabis Survey, conducted by Health Canada in 2019, found that 73 percent of people using cannabis for medical purposes did not obtain a medical document from a healthcare practitioner (H. Canada, 2019). This means there are a large proportion of people using cannabis to self-medicate.

Joint Pain Neuropathic Pain Epilepsy Neurodegenerative Disorders(eg, MS, Parkinson’s) To reduce the use of other substances or medications (Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart, n.d.) Gastrointestinal Disorders(eg Crohn’s disease) Mood Disorders Anxiety Endometriosis PTSD Migraines Sleep Disorders Nausea and Vomiting Poor Appetite
Joint Pain Endometriosis Anxiety Neuropathic Pain Sleep Disorders Migraines Poor Appetite Nausea and Vomiting Epilepsy Gastrointestinal Disorders(eg Crohn’s disease) Mood Disorders Neurodegenerative Disorders(eg, MS, Parkinson’s) PTSD To reduce the use of other substances or medications (Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart, n.d.)

What’s the difference between medical and recreational cannabis?

People that use cannabis recreationally typically seek the psychoactive “high” and use THC-dominant products. While generally, people that use cannabis for medical purposes will favor CBD as their main cannabinoid, however THC is also commonly used. Learn about cannabinoids and the difference between THC and CBD!

Although the types and amounts of cannabis products people use can blur the lines between medical and recreational cannabis, they are regulated slightly different and there are benefits to pursuing medical authorization if it is accessible to you.

7 Reasons why you should obtain a medical cannabis prescription

  • Accommodations for work, housing, and driving

    An authorized cannabis patient has legal protections that a recreational consumer does not. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers have the obligation to accommodate to the point of undue hardship an employee who has identified as having a disease, injury or disability, including substance dependence and medical authorizations to use cannabis for medical purposes (E. and S. D. Canada, 2018).

  • Tax benefits

    Cannabis is a medical expense and you can claim it on your yearly incomes tax. Only receipts from medical licensed producers who you are registered to are eligible at tax time. You can claim your cannabis medicine on lines 33099 and 33199 of your tax return.

  • Insurance

    Some private health plans cover the cost of medical cannabis when an employer opts in to that coverage

  • Compassionate pricing and a better variety of therapeutic options, like high CBD products, and topicals. To find out if you are eligible for compassionate pricing, ask your cannabis health team or the medical licensed producer(s) you are registered to.

  • Affordability and better access

    While there are some products that are cheaper on the adult use (recreational) side, the overwhelming majority of medical cannabis products are cheaper and we are seeing more and more options. It’s also easier to have consistent access to your key products, without having to worry about them getting discontinued as often.

  • Trusted advice and guidance on medications, dosing and treatment plans

    Cannabinoids interacts with some medications and supplements. Recreational dispensaries are not allowed to provide health advice. If you are self-medicating without the guidance of health care providers, this can lead to issues with medication side effects or lack of effectiveness, in addition to a risk of adverse events. Read about using cannabis with other drugs.

  • Possession limits are higher for medical patients

    They have the right to carry up to 150 grams or 30 times their authorized limit, whichever is lower, in public. (Ashleigh Brown, n.d.)

There are many different clinics across Canada where you can get authorization and most are available virtually. You do not need a referral from a family doctor to meet with a cannabis-trained healthcare practitioner. Most virtual clinics can see you within just a few days, in-person clinics within a couple weeks. After your consultation, the trained physician or nurse practitioner signs a medical document, which is forwarded to a licensed cannabis retailer or cannabis producer of your choosing. You can choose more than one place. Once the retailer or producer receives your medical document, you can be shopping within one day!

What to Expect From Your Medical Cannabis Appointment:


Most appointments can be booked online, or some by phone.


You will need your Provincial Health Card and sometimes a photo ID


You will fill out an intake form that may include: Provincial health number, address and contact info, health history, medication lists etc.


You will receive an email with a link to a secure video platform. Log on a few minutes before your appointment to make sure it’s working.


A licensed physician or nurse practitioner will meet with you and discuss your symptoms, conditions and what may be helpful for you.


A clinic educator will meet with you either after you see the health care provider, or they will email you to set up an education session or share detailed information. They will help you choose Licensed Producers (LPs) to register with.


You can visit the websites of your LPs and set up your accounts.


The LP will contact you when they receive your medical document from the clinic – usually within 1-4 days.


You can then place an order! Most clinics make recommendations, but you aren’t usually limited to those products. If you want to switch to a different LP, you need to contact your current LP that you want to leave and they will send your medical document to your new LP for registration. You are able to switch at any time and by registering with an LP you are not obligated to purchase products if you change your mind.
(Ashleigh Brown, n.d.)

Is Medical Cannabis Right for Me?

While obtaining a medical cannabis prescription is getting easier and more accessible every day, it can still be a difficult thing to navigate. Unfortunately, many people list stigma as one of the biggest barriers to accessing medical cannabis and have difficulty having productive conversations with their healthcare providers. Depending on your personal circumstances, you may or may not be able to change to a new provider with a more open mind about cannabis.

Remember: Your medicine is your business and no one else’s. If you are concerned about speaking with your primary physician about cannabis, try seeing a cannabis-trained provider by making an appointment with a cannabis clinic. You do not need to inform your primary physician about your cannabis use if you don’t want to.

A common myth about medical cannabis is that if you start using medical cannabis every day to manage a chronic health condition you will be high all the time. There are hundreds of compounds in cannabis, only one compound, THC, has an intoxicating effect. Depending on the condition you are trying to manage, your healthcare provider may suggest some THC or none at all. You don’t ever have to feel uncomfortable while taking cannabis. Your healthcare provider and cannabis-trained pharmacists can help create a treatment plan based on your needs and experiences. You also never need to smoke cannabis if you don’t want to! In fact, you don’t have to smoke or inhale cannabis at all to get its benefits. Many people choose to ingest their medicine through capsules oils or edibles.

Dosing remains highly individualized and relies on titration (i.e. finding the right dose where potential therapeutic effects are maximized while adverse or harmful effects are minimized) (Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart, n.d.). This means that it may take some time to find the right dosing schedule that works best for you! A higher dose or taking more cannabis does not mean it will necessarily work better and it is best to take the smallest dose needed to manage your symptoms. The best advice is to “start low and go slow.”

Ashleigh Brown. (n.d.). SheCann: Empowering Canadian Women. Facebook. Retrieved 30 August 2021, from

Canada, E. and S. D. (2018, July 9). Impairment and cannabis in the workplace [Guidance].

Canada, H. (2007, June 26). Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations—Daily Amount Fact Sheet (Dosage) [Backgrounders].

Canada, H. (2019, December 13). Canadian Cannabis Survey 2019—Summary [Statistics].

Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart. (n.d.). Top Medical Cannabis Myths: Debunked. Medical Cannabis by Shoppers Drug Mart. Retrieved 29 August 2021, from