Regulation Matters 2019 - Issue 3

Cannabis Edibles & the RD Scope of Practice

As of October 17, 2019, cannabis edibles are legal in Canada for recreational purposes. This does not change a dietitian’s professional and legal obligations respecting their scope of practice and for providing safe, ethical and competent client-centered nutrition care. Dietitians must use their judgment when clients ask them about cannabis edibles. Below are three scenarios: two are within the dietetic scope of practice and one is not.

Within the RD Scope of Practice

Scenario 1: Discussing the impact of cannabis as an appetite stimulant with a client.

A client consults with a dietitian for weight management and, as part of the diet history, the dietitian discovers that the client consumes cannabis edibles.

The client’s goal is to lose weight. In this case, it would be within the dietitian’s scope of practice to discuss the impact of cannabis as an appetite stimulant.  

Scenario 2: A client wants to try edible cannabis as an appetite stimulant.

A client experiences unintentional weight loss due to a poor appetite. The client thinks that cannabis edibles might help and asks their dietitian for support in developing a treatment plan. The dietitian agrees.
The dietitian recognizes that cannabis for treatment purposes in healthcare is a scheduled drug and falls under the controlled act of prescribing. The dietitian wants to respect the client’s request and refers the client to a physician.
The dietitian collaborates with the physician, provides information based on the client’s assessment and discusses appetite stimulation options. It is within the dietitian’s scope of practice to collaborate and share in the decision-making with the client and the physician. The physician determines that it is clinically appropriate and prescribes cannabis as an appetite stimulant.

Not in the RD Scope of Practice

Scenario 3: Client asks dietitian to recommend cannabis recipes.

A client suffers from a loss of appetite and asks her dietitian for cannabis recipes to stimulate appetite. Can a dietitian recommend cannabis recipes?

Giving out cannabis recipes for the purposes of treating a client amounts to recommending or prescribing cannabis, which is a scheduled drug for the purposes of healthcare. Dietitians do not have the authority to prescribe drugs under the dietetic scope of practice. Just because the cannabis is baked in food does not change the fact that cannabis is a controlled substance for the purposes of healthcare. Recommending recipes with cannabis would require a delegation to transfer the authority to dietitians to perform the controlled act in appropriate circumstances.

The College recognizes that cannabis is a new and growing area in dietetics. Dietitians are encouraged to keep abreast of emerging issues related to edible cannabis and to incorporate approaches that will enhance the delivery of safe, competent, and ethical dietetic services within their scope of practice. As the legislative and regulatory framework in Canada evolves, the College will provide updates as applicable.

For further information see the College's 2018 article, Cannabis: What you need to know 

If you have any further questions, please contact the College’s Practice Advisory Service:
416-598-1725 / 1-800-668- 4990 ext. 397