Oh Canada, don’t …

imageCanada has been an international leader with respect to cannabis regulation. They first legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2000 and they have become the second nation to legalize marijuana for adult use, a program that will launch in October 2018.  But, ironically, this national program designed to decriminalize and expand the rights of all Canadians to possess marijuana is threatening the existence of the nation’s premiere medical cannabis program.

The shocking suggestion to kill Canada’s medical cannabis program has come from the country’s top medical group, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA). And their reasoning behind the suggestion is even more shocking: CMA wants the program to close because some of its members are “uncomfortable” prescribing cannabis due to a “lack of high-quality research.”

A story on the Canadian Broadcasting Commission (CBC) website quotes leading CMA spokespersons with a stunning lack of knowledge and compassion. Like federal bureaucrats here in the U.S., the CMA seems incapable of delineating between medical use and recreational use, assuming that cannabis is cannabis and any supply will do, even if you need it medically.

Surrendering their intellectual sovereignty to the knee-jerk reactions of anti-marijuana zealots, the CMA does not take this opportunity to applaud a new day in drug regulation that could actually lead to that “high quality” research they are seeking. Instead they have chosen to abrogate their responsibility to “do no harm.” Sending the seriously ill to a recreationally-oriented dispensary risks exposing these patients to unnecessarily high dosing of THC at a time when research — yes, CMA, it is being conducted — shows that micro-dosing is often the best route for patients.

Meanwhile the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) has arrived at the proper conclusion— maintain separate programs. Karey Shuhendler, a spokesperson with the 139,000 member CNA says, “”Protecting a medical stream helps to ensure that there’s going to be product produced for medical purposes, and that access to those products won’t be minimized and swayed toward a more commercially driven product demand.”

Unfortunately the CMA is not alone in its backward thinking. Several of the states in the U.S. that have both medical and recreational use programs have chosen to merge the two and abandon the patients. This demonstrates that despite tremendous strides in terms of educating the public, medical cannabis reformers have failed to impress upon regulators the fundamental differences between recreational and medical use.

It’s ironic that, once again, patients are being forced to lobby for compassionate regulations that provide them with what they need. Twenty years ago the goal was legal  access to any cannabis but now we have learned too much about the endogenous cannabinoid system to return blindly to “smoke as directed.” Patients need quantifiable, well-tested product with the best analysis available relative to cannabinoid content.  And they need the type of leadership demonstrated by the Canadian Nurses Association. ❖

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