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Budtenders and healthcare professionals call for more training on cannabis use in pregnancy

A study revealed an increase in women looking for information about cannabis use and pregnancy



Healthcare providers and budtenders in the US have called for more training on cannabis use in pregnant women.

A new study has revealed that there has been an increase in women looking for information from retail cannabis workers, often referred to as budtenders.

The researchers interviewed 10 healthcare professionals, of which the majority were nurses, alongside 10 budtenders in Washington state about their opinions and perceptions on perinatal cannabis use. Both groups expressed a desire for more education and training. They were in agreement that pregnant and breastfeeding women often use cannabis to relieve their nausea, pain and anxiety rather than for recreational purposes.

Budtenders and healthcare providers

Both the budtenders and the healthcare providers differed in their opinions on cannabis use among pregnant or breastfeeding women. Healthcare providers tended to have a negative opinion but reported that they did try not to be judgemental when speaking with patients. They stated they follow national guidance on advising patients to avoid cannabis during pregnancy or breastfeeding. This is in line with advice on cigarettes and alcohol.

In comparison, budtenders had a positive view of cannabis use during pregnancy. They viewed cannabis from a seemingly harm reductive standpoint that it may be a safer substance than alcohol or cigarette use. They preferred to recommend a lower-THC product for expectant and breastfeeding mothers.

The healthcare providers saw cannabis use as more binary in that they expected patients not to use it.

Study lead, Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, vice-chancellor for research at Washington State University Health Sciences said: “We need to use all approaches and all people in the patient’s life to help them. There is such limited research with budtenders, but they need to be part of this conversation because they are seen as trusted sources by their customers and our patients. We need to engage with them because that’s where the information is being disseminated.”

Education for budtenders and healthcare professionals

She sympathised with the budtenders who were having to turn to “stoner science” of unverified online claims to help customers.

Women may turn to budtenders if they feel stigmatised by their healthcare provider or if they don’t have any guidance on cannabis use. The study emphasised that budtenders are also in need of training when it comes to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

“The best scenario would be for women who use cannabis to feel as comfortable talking to their healthcare provider about that choice as they do their budtender,” Barbosa-Leiker added.

“That will take training in how to ask the right questions the right way. With that additional training, I think those conversations can happen in a more nonjudgmental way, in a harm-reduction way, and hopefully, trust will be built.”

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