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Medical Cannabis: What Every Psychiatrist Should Know

Activity Type:

  • On Demand

Release Date: 4/1/2020

Expiration Date: 4/1/2023

  • AMA PRA Category 1: 1
  • Participation: 1



Use of cannabis for medicinal purposes (medical cannabis) has a centuries-long history in the US and throughout the world, but has been illegal in the U.S. at the federal level since 1937. Cannabis and all cannabinoids are classified in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), meaning that they are considered to have a “high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment,” and “a lack of accepted safety for use” (21 U.S. Code § 812). In contrast, state-level interest in medical cannabis has been growing over the past 2 decades. As of August, 2018, 31 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam have made medical cannabis legal under state law, although not all programs are operational. Another 15 states have laws allowing use of cannabidiol (or “low-THC” cannabis) to treat seizures. However, most U.S. physicians, including psychiatrists, receive little or no training about medical cannabis. This presentation will describe the difference between “prescribing” a medication under federal law vs. “recommending” or “authorizing” medical cannabis under state law, the major medical and psychiatric conditions for which medical cannabis can be recommended, the current scientific evidence supporting those indications, major side-effects associated with medical cannabis, and potential public health consequences.

**This content was captured at the 2019 APA Annual Meeting and may reference information from various sources and terminology from previous editions of the DSM.


  • General Member - $12.50
  • Resident-Fellow Member - Free
  • Medical Student Member - $12.50
  • Non-Member - $25.00

This course is no longer free to APA members through the Course of the Month program. Promotional pricing ended April 30, 2020.

Course References

  • Cox EJ, et al. A marijuana-drug interaction primer: Precipitants, pharmacology, and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2019;201:25-38.
  • National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: The current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2017.

Learning Objectives

  • Differentiate between federal law and the various state laws governing medical cannabis
  • Interpret the clinical indications for medical cannabis and the levels of scientific evidence supporting them
  • Recognize the different clinical effects associated with various cannabis routes of administration and THC and cannabidiol concentrations
  • Identify potential patients for whom medical cannabis might be indicated or contraindicated
  • Describe the potential public health consequences of medical cannabis use

Target Audience

Psychiatrists, Residents/Fellows

Estimated Time to Complete

Estimated Duration: 60 minutes
Begin Date: April 1, 2020
End Date: April 1, 2023

How to Earn Credit

Participants who wish to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit ™ or a certificate of participation may do so by completing all sections of the course including the evaluation. After evaluating the program, course participants will be provided with an opportunity to claim hours of participation and print an official CME certificate (physicians) or certificate of participation (non-physicians) showing the completion date and hours earned. 

Continuing Education Credit

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians. 

The APA designates this enduring CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Faculty and Planner Disclosures

Program Presenters

  • David Gorelick, M.D., Ph.D., DLFAPA, Professor, Psychiatry and Scientific Director, Clinical Neurobehavioral Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine. Disclosures - Royalties: UpToDate, Honorarium: Journal of Cannabis Research.
  • Kevin Hill, M.D., M.H.S., Addiction Psychiatrist, Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Disclosures - Other financial: Hazelden Publishing (Author).
  • Arthur Williams, M.D., M.B.E., Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University Division on Substance Use Disorders, and Research Scientist, New York State Psychiatric Institute. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.

Program Planners

  • Tristan Gorrindo, M.D., Director of Education, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.
  • Katie Putnam, Membership Development Specialist, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.
  • Ally Brown, Senior Program Manager, Online Learning, American Psychiatric Association. Reports no financial relationships with commercial interests.

Accessibility for Participants with Disabilities

The American Psychiatric Association is committed to ensuring accessibility of its website to people with disabilities. If you have trouble accessing any of APA’s online resources, please contact us at 202-559-3900 for assistance.

Hardware/Software Requirements

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using Internet Explorer 8+, Mozilla Firefox 3+, Safari 4+. This Web site requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

Optimal System Configuration:

  • Flash Player: Adobe Flash Player 10.3+ 
  • Browser: Firefox (latest version), Internet Explorer 8.0+, Safari 7.0+, Microsoft Edge (latest version) or Google Chrome (latest version)
  • Operating System: Windows XP+ or Mac OS X 10.4+ 
  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher

Minimum Requirements:

  • Windows PC: 500-MHz Pentium II; Windows XP or higher; 128 MB RAM; Video Card at least 64MB of video memory; Macromedia Flash Player 10.3 or higher; Sound Card at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content
  • Macintosh:Mac OS X 10.4+ or higher with latest updates installed; 1.83MHz Intel Core Duo or faster; RAM: 128MB or more; Video Card: at least 64MB of video memory; Sound Card: at least 16-bit; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

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